Born just outside Chicago, Kelly Parichy Bennett grew up in a family of five children where sharing was both a necessity and a way of life. She found the giving spirit woven not only through the hand-me-down piles, but also in the way her family shared its joys, fears, stories and love. To this day, that childhood and the one she is fostering for her own three children inspires her subject matter and the way she looks at the world and enjoys writing about it. Kelly’s commentary, “To Mother from Daughter” aired on NPR in 2005*, she contributed to Maureen Ryan Griffin’s Spinning Words into Gold: A Hands On Guide to the Craft of Writing (2006) and she’s very excited to have been included in Nothing But The Truth So Help Me God: 73 Women on Life’s Transitions (2014). Currently, she is working on collating her reflections from a year of chemo called “Chiquita Banana Lady Gets Cockapoo Curls” from her home in Kent, England.
*The NPR archive no longer holds my commentary, here’s the text from the original recording:
To Mother From Daughter
There are so many things that hit you when you lose someone – devastating aspects of the person that overwhelm you and make your heart ache for the sheer missing of them. After my mom died, I was surprised by the deep pang of sorrow I felt when I, the devoted card connoisseur and stationery hoarder, was no longer on the market for Mother’s Day cards. I say “cards” because I always loved to buy and send Mom as many as I could – especially when I lived in England where they celebrated Mother’s Day on a different date and I could legitimately wish my “mum” a happy day two times a year. I took great pleasure in finding the perfect card so that she might understand how deeply I loved her and appreciated having her as my mother.
When she died in April 2002, Mother’s Day came all too quickly for me and I actually developed a defense technique – avoid and ignore. If I needed, say, a birthday card, I would avert my eyes past the “For Her” section so I didn’t have to see the “Mom” tab poking up over the top, mocking my pain. My cards that year came form the “Blank” or “All Occasion” sections of the card rack.
With Mother’s Day looming, I started seeing signs EVERYWHERE -nothing mystical, just big blaring cardboard displays yelling at me, in uppercase, DON’T FORGET MOTHER’S DAY. It wasn’t that I wanted to forget Mom, rather I didn’t want to be reminded she was no longer there to send a card to. As I moodily made my stealth bomber raids through Walgreens, I tried to ignore any mention of the “M” holiday.
As fate would have it, my careful navigation of the card shops was for naught. In the end, I came across a card which I couldn’t avoid, ignore or resist. It arrived amidst a preschool Mother’s Day tea and it was addressed to me.
In the crowded hallway of my four-year-old daughter’s school I found it propped on top of a handprinted placemat, resting against a mini terracotta pot of pink impatients. It was a Mother’s Day card, not hallmarked, labeled or barcoded, simply folded green construction paper decorated with a rainbow colored teacup, the word “Mom” magic markered on the outside.
Inside were lines where the teacher had filled in each child’s response, verbatim, to various questions about their mother. Mine read:
My mom is fifteen years old.
My favorite thing she cooks is cookies.
Her favorite household chore is making my bed.
I chuckled at the pure innocence of her perceptions. Then I read:
I love my mom’s courage and understanding.
Astounded and honored, I looked up, eyes filled with tears at the teacher who had scribed the words.
“Did she really say this?”
The teacher said, “Yes, those were her words. I asked her to repeat them. Courage and understanding.”
Just then my daughter walked up, “Mommy, what is the matter?”
I told her I loved my gifts, but especially the card.
“Why are you crying?”, she asked, “Did I make you cry?”
“It’s okay, these are tears of joy. They’re good tears. Sometimes, tears are good. You are so happy inside you have to let it leak out somehow.”
Though the pain of being a daughter grieving for her mother is still real, I now have a new role. Now I am the mother, the recipient of my daughter’s love, respect and admiration. Mother’s Day lives on for me in a new form and I know my mother is happy.