When I was a young mother – twenty-four and my daughter six – I worked construction.
I got her ready for school in the mornings and hopped a ride on my boss’s truck to our work site for the day. Often it was to rehab public housing near the federal penitentiary here in Atlanta.
I came home exhausted in the evenings and made sure she got her bath, supervised homework, cooked supper, and ,once a week, prepared the evening meal for 60 children and adults in our church’s mentorship program. Sometimes when you are busy surviving you forget you are afraid.
Our rented duplex was cold in the winter, heated only by gas space heaters that I hesitated to keep on while we slept. We bundled together in my bed, piling all of our blankets on top of one another until the mattress on the floor grew to resemble a multi-colored mountain.
One evening our landlord dropped by to pick up the rent. It was fairly early but we were already snuggled down under the pile of blankets, keeping warm while I read and she wrote poetry on 3X5 cards. Her first effort went like this:
My dog has fleas (fleas, fleas, fleas, fleas)
All over her knees (knees, knees, knees, knees)
which we sang to the tune of The Blue Danube Waltz.
When the doorbell rang I forced myself up, padded to the door, and invited him in while I wrote the check that would wipe out my bank balance. Drafts of icy wind accompanied his arrival and departure ridding us of the last gasp of heat we had hoped would last for a little while longer.
I shivered back under the covers when my daughter informed me she had written another poem. “Great,” I chattered, trying to recapture some semblance of warmth to my hands and feet, “read it to me.” She took a breath and recited:
The night is long and wind blows cold
And I and my mother pay rent.
I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry so I just hugged her tight. Mother’s Day, I remembered this story and how there is, somehow, always enough. Always enough warmth. Always enough joy to create and to sing. And most of all, always enough love to cast out fear.