Mentors and Mamas
by Elayne Clift

She came into my life at sixteen,
Her beautiful brown baby daughter
Suckling at her breast.
Tender and maternal beyond her years,
She parented perfectly,
While juggling life’s demands,
Made all the more challenging
By the color of her skin, cultural nuance,
Family history and deeds,
and the realities of poverty.

Each day she rose at five,
Carried the baby to daycare,
Then raced for the school bus,
Reversing her steps while other kids
Skipped their way home.
How did she do it, I marveled,
Never losing patience with her progeny,
Even as she wept on occasion,
Longing for a solid night’s sleep,
And a room of her own.

Years passed. She graduated, then married.
Her daughter, funny and full of love, flourished.
The bond between us grew strong.
Once mentor, I morphed into friend, tutor,
Confidante, advisor, “second Grandma.”
We became family, sharing happy and sad times,
Holidays, family rituals, frustrations, and hard-earned hope.
When I was her age, a loving mother, not mine,
Had given me that same hope, and courage,
So I knew its gift, and passing it on, relished its own reward.


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