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BEACON Senior News

A Tale of Two Poets: Honoring our mothers through words on Mother’s Day

Apr 28, 2024 10:51AM ● By Patrick G. Metoyer

As a young elementary school teacher in the 1970s, I began exploring poetry with my fifth-grade students. Together, we read, wrote and recited poems, and often indulged in nonsense rhymes. In the process, I developed a knack for fanciful words and phrases.

Throughout my years of writing, I was unaware of any other family members sharing my affinity for the lyrical arts. However, in the 1990s, I learned of another relative’s creative writing interests. This revelation came after my mother and four of her sisters had spent time supporting an ailing sister in Colorado Springs.

My Aunt Theresa, affectionately known as "Aunt Tea," gradually recovered from her arduous cancer treatments. As a tribute to her fighting spirit, my mother wrote four pages on March 16, 1992, partially recalling my aunt's infancy. 

She wrote, “I still remember Theresa's sweet baby face. Her baby eyes watched me as I, Rowena, 8 years older than she, gently rocked her cradle while singing lullabies to put her to sleep.”

I was astonished as I read, for the first time, the emotional details of the bond between my mother and my aunt. Imagine my surprise when I discovered this document years later during a visit to my parents' home. Mom had written, photocopied and shared her thoughts, yet I, the writer in the family, was somehow out of the loop.

I had known that Mom had only a sixth-grade education. As the seventh of 15 children, she was tasked with helping care for her younger siblings. She was devastated when her father insisted her schooling be cut short so she could help her mother with household duties and caring for the toddlers.

My Aunt Tea became the sparkle in an otherwise gloomy scenario. My mom wrote, “My maternal instincts were showered on her; in a way she was my baby, resulting in a close sisterly relationship. In later years, when grown, she repaid me. When life’s setbacks occurred, l took my problems to Theresa who became my faithful confidante."

This bond of faithfulness endured for more than 80 years. When Mom died in 2007, I became the executor of her estate. As I sorted through her belongings, I discovered copies of additional writings she had penned for her friends after retirement—for fellow co-workers, club members and travel companions.

In 2011, my Aunt Tea died. I experienced another revelation when my first cousin and his wife shared with me a lengthy newspaper obituary that my mother had written for Aunt Tea's first husband, who drowned in 1946 shortly after their wedding. The obituary was an elegy composed in rhyming couplets. At age 28, my mother expressed the grief of the young bride: ‘Yes, the waters of this Cane River Lake / Hold a sadness for her that no one can take / Until God reunites them in happiness once more / And his grace upon them he'll then implore.’

I am uncertain whether my mother wrote any other poetry between 1946 and the 1980s. However, I am certain of this: with her limited sixth-grade education, she accomplished something at age 28 that I, despite my high school and college diplomas, had not even considered at the same age. It wasn't until my early 30s that the Muses inspired me, and a few more years would pass before I had several short poems published.

While I may not have a vast collection of Mom's writings, I do have several hours of audio tapes where she regales others with her stories. Mom loved life and laughter, and had a talent for entertaining family and friends. Her exceptional memory and sense of humor kept her listeners in stitches.

Given my own advancing years, I realize I have no time to lose in promoting Mom’ s legacy. I need to dust off her manuscripts and transcribe her tapes. There’s a vast audience eager for her contributions. Let the storytelling begin! 

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