From David Armand, Hammond, LA
The first time I met my mother, when I
was twenty, we stayed up the whole night
talking and playing the piano. She could
still play “Clair de Lune” from memory,
and I remember her hands on the keys,
how she’d placed her palms on my face
when she first saw me, taking in the sight
of her only child. She said she hadn’t even
seen a picture of me since she’d given me
up for adoption.
But when it was finally time for me to
go, my mother fell down onto the kitchen
floor, her legs and arms flailing against
the cold beige tiles. She later said it was
so I wouldn’t leave; still, I rode in the back
of an ambulance with her, held her hand,
and stayed up all night in the ER until she
finally walked out on her own.
Before my mother disappeared again
for what would be another dozen years,
she stitched a button back onto my shirt.
We were in the kitchen again, and the
button had just come off, like things
My mother said she wanted to fix it
for me. And even though I didn’t know
that would be the last time I’d see her for
a good while—finding her years later on
the floor of her trailer next to an empty
bottle of pills and a yellowed program
from a piano recital she’d given when she
was a teenager—I handed her my shirt.
Then I watched as she threaded
a needle with her quivering fingers,
becoming the mother I think she wanted
to be—and could have been—if only the
world hadn’t been so hard on her.
For now, though, the button was slowly
mended back into its place.
Where it belonged.
From Joanna Pendelton, Newhall, CA
Upon our engagement over thirty years
ago, we were given a gift basket filled
with a variety of small green plants.
All of them died during that first year,
except one. I put it in a pretty pot
which it quickly outgrew. Together, we
transplanted it into a proper large pot and
it grew into a healthy little house tree.
Our family tree, I call it, since my vision
is often dominated by metaphors.
The little tree moved with us from
the house where we started, to the
one that we lost, to the rentals, to the
relative’s where we saved to start again.
Our daughter, then our son, moved
away, perhaps before they were ready.
My husband and I argued. Jobs were
lost. Loved ones died. The house plant
withered. I took some cuttings and put
them in a jar. They took root beautifully,
but died while I was sick and too far
away to care for them. We settled and
recovered. The tree was barely alive. Not
wanting a new one, I trimmed it fiercely,
tossing out dry branches of leathery
leaves as it faltered, even in the light. I
freshened the soil and fed it.
Finally, some soft new sprouts are
showing as I train the remaining thin
trunks to intertwine with one another. A
branch in the center refuses to thrive. I
cut it off and put it in the old jar, changing
the water frequently. I speak to it . . .
stay alive. I rub the cut end between my
fingers, scraping the woody bark to keep
it from getting stagnant. It sits on my
desk by the big window where I write and
pray, weep and paint, and imagine I see
a root forming, maybe even a speck of
From Fay Loomis, Kerhonkson, NY
“Waste not, want not,” my parents would
say, which seemed silly to me, since we
wasted nothing and always wanted.
Mom dazzled me with her repair
of a wobbly-legged chair by filling the
joints with glue. Dad saved baling wire
to cobble a fence back together when
the cows leaned into it while reaching
for tantalizing new grass on the other
side. If we didn’t catch them, they would
gorge and founder. Then the cows needed
mending via a vet puncturing their
stomachs to release gas and prevent death.
We were not so good at fixing the rents
in our hearts. The Depression, war, and
flint-like poverty frayed our emotions.
Add to that the unrelenting rejection
from busybodies in our small town who
couldn’t abide our way of life and you
might have a tear in your soul that could
take a lifetime to make whole.
Mending sometimes did set the world
to rights. Darning shut a gaping hole
in a sock to keep out the cold, tucking
cardboard into a shoe to make it last until
the school year ended, patching a screen
to keep out tormenting mosquitoes,
and repairing a bushel basket to hold
fragrant apples all brought a sense of self-
sufficiency and assurance that we would
get through tough times.
Most of all, gathering round the radio
to listen to The Lone Ranger, swimming
in a lake, if only once, or boiling maple
syrup in a black kettle on a brittle day
were the times that stitched our family
back together, lifted us out of ordinary
moments into extraordinary healing
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