my mother died 7 1/2 months ago, and today is her birthday. she would have been 77. my brother has been sending me random boxes of her things (well, his wife is probably packing and shipping the boxes), and in the last box, there was a folder of Mom's writing both from her school days, and after. in particular, there were several poems to and about a man named David, and a letter to her father begging to be allowed to come home. I wish she were here to tell me about what must have been a difficult time in her life, but she chose to take her secrets to her grave. I hope she found David in the afterlife - whatever that might have looked like for her - and I wanted to give voice to her longing. she deserved at least that much. I mean...there could be a reason these particular poems found me, whether my sister-in-law or my brother picked them purposefully out of a pile of other useless crap, or it happened organically, it feels like I was meant to see them, and as is my way, share.
Do you remember, darling, our love?
I do - always, but especially tonite.
We were having a campfire to celebrate harvests end,
And as we sat - I began to sing and strum the guitar.
The people said I was great -
That I sang with real feeling
For the tears stood in my eyes.
I sang, "We Shall Overcome," and they thought the tears were for the Cause.
But they were not - they were for you.
For as I sang I remembered -
Our days on the picket line, the nite in jail,
Our first date and all of those thereafter.
I thought of what might have been -
The children we might have had.
And then I thought of how you left me
And you said, "You'll forget me, but please, not too fast or easily."
I turned away then to hide my tears
And you went -
I watched until you got your first lift
In a chain of many, which took you away forever
Now, the seas separate us
But darling, I'll always belong to you even when I sleep beneath the Israeli sod - and you beneath the the Louisiana soil.
In death, if not in life, we shall overcome and live again to love.
- Sue Meistrich, 12/5/63, 6:30pm
13 Feb. 1964
I am 19, an upper middle class, white girl. The only thing that makes me a non WASP is my jewish religion and culture. I suppose my normal pattern would have been college, job and marriage to a "nice jewish boy", a family, etc. I would have lived a secure life, nice and easy with no disruptive influences.
I have, however, already broken with the pattern. The whole thing began on 19 Sept. when I was arrested for civil rights in Syracuse. At this time I met a man - David - who I fell subsequently in love with. Now I am faced with a decision. I have a choice to make between two lives. The life I mentioned above, conforming to the "normal" pattern and the life I see ahead as David's wife. I see a life much closer to the raw elements of life. The element of drink, pot, sex, etc. I see pure love, but sorrow, misery and heartbreak because of differences of background. I see a man who loves me, but can offer me nothing in the material senses, a man who is mad at the world, and who must sometimes take out his frustrations on me, but thru it all I see a man in love who is tortured by this love. I see a life with no security, only love to hold it together. Children who grow up angry at the world as my husband is. I see myself cut off from my people and relatives.
I can now choose between this life of love and the other, a life of security without as much meaning as the other. my problem - do I come back penitent, to my accustomed life and try to be a person in the "normal" pattern, or do I break with tradition to follow love wherever it leads me. I cannot make the choice myself and yet I have no one I can turn to who is not prejudiced for one side or the other. I wait for an event which will make me decide - in the meantime I am in a hellish limbo.
DREAMS (8 April 1964)
I see the trains in
the yards going-
god knows where.
And I long to jump
on one and go with it,
But I go home - to a bed
I hear my man- broke,
Come with me,
I have nothing but- come.
But I go home- where the dog
eats better than him.
I read the poet who tells
me to catch the winds of
destiny wherever they drive
But it is too late.
I am a solid citizen- shit!!!
11:30 PM Aug. '70
When does it stop hurting - if ever?
When do longings die - or do they?
Why must I stop seeking
How long will I cry.
If tomorrow I see David
What then will I say
Look out poss - whats to ya
Come lets go away
But, now I have a husband - proper
Now I have a son
And a daughter - also proper
Will I never, ever win.
When I feel youth around me
With their psychedelic colors
Searching, crying, learning, trying
Then my heart cries from within
Come and hear what I have suffered
Hear of battles never won
Know that I will feel forever
Tho the things be dead & gone.
Its a long way till we finish
All the things that we must do
And in the end are only
things so dead & gone
memories will I cherish
in the dark & secret nite
but never will I give up
the long & hurtful fite
in my pillow will I smile
at a face that's long gone by
but mostly I remember
and in the dark I cry.
My mother died the other day, and while going through her papers I suddenly found the reason for the far away look in her eyes she had every July, my mother hated July, I learned the reason for the black mark on the calendar in her private date book every July 16th.
My mother was once beautiful, I know I have seen many pictures of her. She was a brilliant woman and none of us knew why she had never finished college and become a plain housewife. Now I know. I have read her diaries and now I understand her as I never did when she lived.
She was a free girl beautiful and reflective, able to find the beauty in the everyday things of the world we all take from granted and never really see. She saw them, she could be transfixed by the trees against the sky, or sit up all night and watch the play of the air and the stars. She loved storms, wild storms, when the snow and the wind and the trees lash at each other and the forces of nature threaten to overwhelm us. She loved to watch a hurricane or a tornado and often would not take shelter but watch and revel in the passions of the world. She found in them an answer to her own passionate nature, unbridled and untamed.
My mother loved then, she loved a man, she loved him with all the force of her nature and she allowed her passion to rage unchecked. But she always knew that if they were to marry they would destroy each other. She did destroy him in the end, he followed her to the city and became an addict, I don't know what became of him for she suddenly stops writing of him and yet every once in a while she mused in her diary about meeting him again and she admits to herself that she would once again follow him and leave her family, her husband and her children. As I said she loved with all her being.
It was after she left this man that she met him. The other one. she never loved him. that she knew, but she conceived a child by him. She was too proud to marry a man she did not love and so she bore the child and the burden of unwed maternity alone. She left him with her head held high, and he never saw the scars on her soul. He never knew how her arms longed for the child she could not have, the child she saw only once in her life, the tiny infant daughter we never knew about. Never once during her life did he say anything about it, but her eyes grew dark every July and she cried.
She wrote about an Independence Day weekend that she walked the streets of the city, finding no one to speak to, no place to have a meal, her large belly and unringed hand prevented her from going in to a nice restaurant and her pride prevented her from asking assistance. She wrote how she slept in a downtown fleabag hotel until the time came to bear the child she had suffered for, and how when it was over she prayed for help to live the rest of her life without the child. She wrote of the long days she spent looking at each baby she came near wondering if it was hers and knowing that she had no right to think of it, no right to wonder about its new parents or its life. She wrote each July of what her daughter would be doing now, and followed the age of her child faithfully all her life, but she never said a word to me.
The following year she met and married my father and settled down to an outwardly respectable life. She had children who she raised with all the love she had left in her but something had died in her and she was no longer the wild girl she had been before. She was a good mother and a good wife. She and my father lived together in peace and happiness for many years and never a word to us about the weight on her heart, the burden she bore alone.
My mother died the other day and now I know why she hated July.
*it's a little weird to hear her write in what's supposed to be my voice, and assume my feelings. I never noticed my mother liking or hating any month over any other, and I never knew the 16th was a hard day for her. I does happen to be my half-sister's birthday, so I guess that answers that one. Mom eventually finished college and ended up with two Bachelor's degrees and two Master's degrees, and there's nothing shameful about being a housewife, 'plain' or any other kind, in my opinion (Mom also had a long and lucrative career as a librarian). she did not strike me as someone who cared much for the weather, past being inside when it didn't agree with her, which was often, though she did enjoy waking up in the early hours of the day when meteor showers tend to happen, and I did appreciate that about her. while it sounds to me like her friend David came with some serious red flags, I can respect that from 19 through 26 she thought he was the great love of her life. did she continue to pine for him after all the long years? or did there come a point in time when the 30 years she spent living, loving, and fighting with my dad eventually overshadow David's memory? I wish there was more to read, but what I've shared here is the bulk of what I was given, aside from a few other poems and letters. she did eventually tell me about her other daughter, probably just over 10 years ago when my own baby born out of wedlock was in Kindergarten, and she had found her. she wanted us to meet, and so we did. I think she's a cool lady, and I call her my half-sister. her mom, the woman who raised her, thanked my mom for completing her family. I think it's sweet, I'm glad it had a happy ending for my mom, and I hope it brought joy to my half-sister and her mom, too. it's sad to think how much more we could have shared with each other if my mom had managed to parent more from a place of love than a place of fear, but she did what she could with what she had, and she did her best, just like most of the rest of us. so many lost chances, so many missed opportunities for understanding, healing, and communication. people - talk your stories. you never know which ones may make a difference in someone's life. I wished I'd known more about my mom...I wish she'd felt empowered to tell me more about who she was. either way, I loved her.
💙 💜 💙