an everyday photo, every day | photography • art • poetry

Posts tagged “memory

Composition

photo of composition book memory of mother
photo of composition book memory of mother

My mother’s composition book from a banking class, 1940.

My mother ended her long battle with life four years ago today. I think of her daily in one thing or another as I’m sure we all do our mothers. Though ours was a more antagonistic relationship and memories are not so fine, in my everyday thoughts I find a different story and one small theme has come back to me frequently lately.

When I was little and discovering the world I took everything I found that I could carry and presented it to my mother. She rejected everything—bird feathers, rocks, flowers, small household items I’d found in the street, kittens—telling me she was allergic to the thing and not to bring it into the house. If I did, it disappeared. Years later, living in personal care, clothes I purchased for her were similarly rejected, or if accepted, would appear on someone else as she’d given them away.

Fifty years of that never stopped me from trying. My mother suffered from serious depression and I think I sensed that very early on, possibly because it was particularly bad after I was born, and I had the urge to both share my wonder and to make her happy, and I also brought things I just thought she’d like. Those patterns can be difficult to shake. I’ll never be convinced that nothing I shared through life—success in college, my paintings, my artwork, my writing, on and on—got into her. Every once in a while she would slip and make a remark that proved she remembered exactly what I’d shared and why.

So every once in a while, when in the course of everyday life I look something up on the internet, often read e-newsletters and my newspapers and magazines and watch movies on my computer, I think how much she would have loved the internet, just absolutely been absorbed by it. A lover of crossword puzzles, I remember her sitting in her chair working a puzzle surrounded by all her reference books, the crossword dictionaries, thesaurus, encyclopedias—old, but some information is timeless—various almanacs, world atlases and other reference books. Then there were the television shows and movies and the reference books on those subjects, then baseball, especially, and football to a certain extent, and the Olympics, and politics, and she had it all there in books and if she couldn’t relate a fact immediately she would find it.

She loved looking something up, just the act of pursuing facts and finding them was exciting. So was proving someone wrong, but that might be expected. And so was voicing loud opinions and having a heated discussion about politics or music or current events, sitting in her chair in the corner of the room and not often leaving the house, indulging in early talk radio.

To have all those facts and more at the click of a mouse would be exhilarating. I can picture her today constantly researching something just because it was there, and also firing off comments on Facebook, repeatedly watching her favorite movies on Netflix, and checking the weather hourly. It would be ideal for someone like her.

She had lung cancer surgery and a near-fatal cardiac condition in May 2001 but recovered enough to return to her home for a little over a year, after I had begun working at home. I constantly checked on her, finding her asleep in front of Lifetime TV and a movie she’d watched over a dozen times already. Her eyesight for small print was failing and she was nearing cataract surgery, so I got her a small boom box with both cassette and CD and checked recorded books from the library for her. Same rejection pattern with those, although there were some all-time hits that she could listen to over and over and I was glad they were long ones.

I had the chance, briefly, to introduce her to the computer, and did so. I cooked for her all the time, taking the food to her house in meal-size containers that could be heated in the microwave, and at least twice per month I drove her to my house for Sunday dinner, which was usually some sort of soup or, unbeknownst to her, vegetarian/vegan variations on some favorites like stew or holuptsi (stuffed cabbage) as I didn’t eat meat and she was supposed to be careful of cholesterol and such things.

While here, I used my computer to show her around the internet. A computer can seem completely unmanageable to people who’ve never used one, and in 2001 there just weren’t as many computers in everyday life as there are now and most people didn’t have a computer at home, though many did at work. I wasn’t concerned she wouldn’t learn to use it. In the 80s I had taught her to drive and she got her license the day she qualified for Medicare. If she wanted it, she’d learn it.

I used the mouse and, humoring me, she typed, we looked up a few things, equating that with using the index in an encyclopedia, showed her a few early online stores using JCPenney and comparing it to the catalog. Quickly enough she was frustrated by the mechanics of it and I knew I’d just have to find one moment of her discovering its potential. One afternoon she actually moused around herself and looked up a few things, and then a few facts pertinent to our conversation. Then we sent an email to my niece, her granddaughter, in Savannah GA (we are in Pittsburgh PA) and got an answer back. I could see the wheels begin to turn.

Unfortunately she was regularly developing pneumonia living at home and spent some time in the hospital after that day, moving directly into personal care. She was weak for a long time and angry to be where she was, and as much as I thought about how much fun a computer would be where she lived, in that day, personal care homes did not have wifi. By the time computers and wifi were widely available it was way too late.

If she had not suffered that illness and still lived at home, a computer would have been one of those gifts I would have gladly gotten for her, one that would not have been rejected, I know that for sure. She probably would have had me install it on her kitchen table where she spent time in the morning at crafts and creative things. I can almost picture here there. It may not be a memory, but it’s the next best thing.

Read other essays and poetry I’ve written about my mother.

. . . . . .

All images used on this site are copyrighted to Bernadette E. Kazmarski unless otherwise noted and may not be used without my written permission. Please ask if you are interested in using one in a print or internet publication. If you are interested in purchasing a print of this image or a product including this image, check my Etsy shop or Fine Art America profile to see if I have it available already. If you don’t find it there, visit “purchasing” for availability and terms.


Poem for Saturday: My Mother’s Tuesday Afghan

photo of colorful crocheted afghan
photo of colorful crocheted afghan

My mother’s Tuesday afghan.

I stopped in at the nursing home to see my mother on a November afternoon in 2010, and, really, the first thing I saw when I looked in her room was the afghan pictured above, and it immediately took me back to an earlier day, a similar afghan…and a younger mother.

. . . . . . .

My Mother’s Tuesday  Afghan

She was calling, calling
reaching from the depths of the body
I no longer recognized
to this world she no longer recognizes
an imitation of reality
patched together from
leftovers of memories,
pleading for someone to do something,
but the first thing I saw
was the afghan across her bed
one big granny square
row upon row growing larger
each row a different color
brighter and more cheerful
with each row.

She recognizes my voice
but not really who I am
still I can guide her attention
away from her unidentified need
in this unfamiliar world
to where mine had gone
when I saw the afghan
remembering one just like it I’d made
decades before as a young teenager
scraps of yarn from other afghans I’d made
for other family members
each row a different person
a different room in a different house
a different memory
and given to my brother.

And so with leftover scraps of memories
tied to leftover scraps of yarn
I led her back to her home,
the afghans, my brother, the 70s
all of us
a time I knew she held close
until her voice lost the desperate note
and she sat back
talking of the neighborhood
and the new kitchen makeover,
my cat Bootsie and her kittens,
and of people who had died years ago
and, surrounded by these familiar things
in an era where I’ve always felt she was happiest,

I hoped she might spend the afternoon there.

Poem (c) 2011 Bernadette E. Kazmarski

She was in her bed calling for someone to do something, I’m not sure what, and it took a while for her to recognize my voice; her macular degeneration had virtually blinded her, just as her dementia had done, taking away the reality we see and feel every day and replacing it with an inferior imitation, patched together from the leftovers of memories. Visiting her at that point, just two months before she died, was not easy because she was mentally so far away and the confusion really frightened her. I appreciated any tiny kernel that could help to organize her mind, and in this case, mine as well.

I did my best to take her mind from her unidentified need by pointing out the afghan, which she could barely see though I described it. I’d made one much like it years before just as I described, out of scraps of yarn left over from afghans I’d made for sister and aunts and even neighbors, every row a different color, a different person, a different room, a different home, round and round, and gave it to my brother who hadn’t yet received one of my crocheted creations, and through many situations he kept it for years though it had ended up in her house. Pulling together those odds and ends of memory, the yarn, the afghans, the 70s, my brother, all slowly steered her to a different memory, focused on a different time, and I hoped she might spend her afternoon there.

Ironically, that time was a profoundly unhappy time for me, one I’d rather not remember, but perhaps visiting it in this context softened the edge of memory.

My mother died just two days before I had a poetry reading scheduled. The day she died, after taking care of much business, I went late in the night to sit on my porch swing in the dark and watch the snow fall, and wrote a poem for her and decided to go through with my reading in her honor. I read this poem as well as the dedication poem at that reading.

Read more poetry here on Today or visit my poetry page to see more about my poetry and other writing, and to purchase Paths I Have Walked.


poetry book

I’m proud to offer a folio of my poetry

Paths I Have Walked: the poetry and art of Bernadette E. Kazmarski

FROM FOUR ANNUAL POETRY READINGS AT ANDREW CARNEGIE FREE LIBRARY & MUSIC HALL IN CARNEGIE, PA

People who attended one or more of my poetry readings encouraged me to publish some of my poetry in a book from the beginning.

Once I completed my 2010 poetry reading, my fourth featuring the final piece of artwork in the “Art of the Watershed” series, I decided it was time to publish something and it should be those four poetry readings.

Poetry books are not best-sellers; it’s difficult to convince a publisher to risk effort on a beginning poet, and while self-publishing is the best option it’s not inexpensive and once you’ve got the book, someone’s got to market it. Plus, I’m a graphic designer and I designed books for years, and I want things my way.

All of this is a recipe for a little bit of trouble, but I decided the book was well worth the effort so I designed the book myself and had a set printed—no ISBN or anything formal, but it’s a start! I’m really excited to offer it.

Books are 4.25″ x 11″, 40 pages of information and poetry, with glossy covers featuring “Dusk in the Woods” and little thumbnails of all four pieces in “Art of the Watershed”.

$8.00 each plus $2.50 shipping (they are oversized for mailing first class).

You can order one on my poetry page, or in my Marketplace.

About the books and the poetry readings

My biggest inspiration for poetry, prose and artwork is the world right around me, and I enjoy the opportunity to share it from the perspective of one who walks and hikes and bikes and carries a camera, art materials and journal everywhere—even around the house—so the inspirations are fresh.

In December, 2006, two of my poems were chosen to be published on a section of the Prairie Home Companion website entitled “Stories From Home/First Person” for submissions of writing about the place we feel most familiar. I’m a long-time listener to PHC and reader of Garrison Keillor’s books as well as a daily listener to The Writer’s Almanac featuring news about writers and writing and of interest to writers as well as a poem, all compiled and read by Keillor himself. I  was astonished to find my poems were among the first chosen from apparently thousands, and so happy to be able to share them with a potential audience of so many similarly inclined writers and readers.

My poetry readings and art exhibits were the vision of Maggie Forbes, executive director of the Andrew Carnegie Free Library & Music Hall, after learning of my publishing of those two poems. I owe her many thanks for encouraging me to present this combination of my visual and literary art, a first for me. Each year I am invited back to read my poetry and exhibit my artwork. I love that building, every inch of it, and the opportunity to bring people in to visit is an honor.


Poem for Saturday: My Mother’s Tuesday Afghan

photo of colorful crocheted afghan
photo of colorful crocheted afghan

My mother’s Tuesday afghan.

MY MOTHER’S TUESDAY AFGHAN

She was calling, calling
reaching from the depths of the body
I no longer recognize
to this world she no longer recognizes
an imitation of reality
patched together from
leftovers of memories,
pleading for someone to do something,
but the first thing I saw
was the afghan across her bed
one big granny square
row upon row growing larger
each row a different color
brighter and more cheerful
with each row.

She recognizes my voice
but not really who I am
still I can guide her attention
away from her unidentified need
in this unfamiliar world
to where mine had gone
when I saw the afghan
remembering one just like it I’d made
decades before as a young teenager
scraps of yarn from other afghans I’d made
for other family members
each row a different person
a different room in a different house
a different memory
and given to my brother.

And so with leftover scraps of memories
tied to leftover scraps of yarn
I led her back to her home,
the afghans, my brother, the 70s
all of us
a time I knew she held close
until her voice lost the desperate note
and she sat back
talking of the neighborhood
and the new kitchen makeover
and of people who had died years ago
and, surrounded by these familiar things
I hoped she might spend the afternoon there.

Poem (c) 2011 Bernadette E. Kazmarski

I stopped in at the nursing home to see my mother on a November afternoon in 2010, and, really, the first thing I saw when I looked in her room was the afghan pictured above, and it immediately took me back to an earlier day…and a younger mother.

She was in her bed calling for someone to do something, I’m not sure what, and it took a while for her to recognize my voice; her macular degeneration has virtually blinded her, just as her dementia has done, taking away the reality we see and feel every day and replacing it with an inferior imitation, patched together from the leftovers of memories. Visiting her at that point, just two months before she died, was not easy because she was mentally so far away and the confusion really frightened her. I appreciated any tiny kernel that could help to organize her mind, and in this case, mine as well.

I did my best to take her mind from her unidentified need by pointing out the afghan, which she could barely see though I described it. I’d made one much like it years before out of scraps of yarn left over from afghans I’d made for other family members, every row a different color, a different person, a different room, a different home, round and round, and gave it to my brother who hadn’t yet received one of my crocheted creations, and through many situations he kept it for years though it had ended up in her house. Pulling together those odds and ends of memory, the yarn, the afghans, the 70s, my brother, all slowly steered her to a different memory, focused on a different time, and I hoped she might spend her afternoon there.

Ironically, that time was a profoundly unhappy time for me, one I’d rather not remember, but perhaps visiting it in this context softened the edge of memory.


Handkerchief

handkerchief with initial h

Handkerchief for Memory

The last time I was at Carnegie Antiques I flipped through the pile of handkerchiefs, all different, handmade, store-bought, flowered, embroidered, lace trims, a typical pile of hankies from years past.

I found this one in the pile and recognized the letter “H”, my mother’s first initial. My mother could be difficult to fit with gifts and was often awkward at accepting, but whenever I found a small thing with her initial, mugs, small handbags, shirts, tablets, whatever, I just bought it and gave it to her. She was always pleased with these things and kept them, and it was a quietly happy part of our relationship. They are all long gone now from regular use and from selling her house and its contents.

Even though she died last month I still had the urge to buy this. I initially decided not to—what would I do with it? I have no one to give it to. I am a habitual collector of small things that I then never give up and years ago I cleaned it all out and donated it and can now enjoy looking at something I would formerly have purchased, then let it go, finding I don’t really need it after all.

But I thought about this little handkerchief, such a nicely done pattern of flowers in some of my mother’s favorite colors, and an unusually-shaped letter. I decided that I could continue this little tradition, even if I only keep the handkerchief and other things myself. Perhaps if I collect a number of things, someday I’ll find another daughter who can use a collection of things with her mother’s initial. For now, I have space for this. When I look at it, I think of my mother. That’s enough purpose for me.