Saturday, May 10, 2014

It Was Mom

"Climbing Mother" by Brian Kershisnik

Here’s a tribute to my mother: Santa Teresa La Tranquila. I wish I could remember sitting in her sacred lap, sucking my finger as she showed me the magic of books, of words, of stories. I wish I could hear again the songs she sang into my sleeping spirit. My mother is one of the gentle ones. Santa Teresa de la Exquisita Caridad.

She taught me that charity never fails. True love overcomes all things and is everything. It is the it of it all. Love is the real deal. She loves people, all people. You see it in her dancing brown eyes when you meet her and she takes your name into her mouth and tastes the essence of it and never forgets it. Names are sacred for her, not as a source of power, but as a source of connection, of affection. She used to have every phone number in our neighborhood memorized, so she could call out her kindness at the hint of a whisper of need.

One day when I had grown into a lanky, surly teenager, I tried to throw my father down the stairs. It was not a good day, you could say. When I was getting ready for bed that night, mom came and leaned in the doorway. This is what she said: “What happened to the little boy who used to sit on my lap and read with me? I miss my Robbie-do.” Still makes me cry to think of it. What is it like to watch life drift away from its source, to become something so foreign and so strange? To become a teenager?

She used to say things when I was young that baffled me. “I am only one person; I can only do one thing at a time.” Now, as my own flock of sacred sparrows surrounds me and my wife, fluttering and flitting and squawking their raucous cacophony of urgent demands, I understand. She was the vine. We needed her. She was the nourisher. Oh, there were days she told us she needed to walk outside. I found her one day outside sitting on the corner of the sidewalk a block from our house, just drinking in the silence and the dark of the starlight sky.

“I have figured out the true never-ending story, and it has nothing to do whatever with a dog-dragon. It is the story of laundry. This is the story that never ends.” Motherhood is relentless, like the spin of the earth, like the tides. Mom clothed us, protected us, fed us. Watched us run through the orchard across the street, throwing apples and climbing trees. She emptied herself for us. We came from her and became the her of her, in a way. Her reason for being.

“Have fun. Be good. If you can’t do both, be good.” This she said almost every time I left the house. I have since learned that there is outrageous fun in goodness, extravagant, wild joy in it; but she was speaking to a mind lacking a frontal cortex. Always keep this in mind.

I named my daughter after her. Gatherer. Teresa of the light. Tessa of the radiance. Harvester of haloed glistening luminosity. At her naming and blessing, Tessa lay still and engaged as a nun as a powerful circle of men enfolded her. I watched her eyes during the prayer. They were intent on my face. She was draped in a flowing white dress cut from the cloth of my mother’s temple sealing dress, a dress my mom made herself because she is modest and simple and lovely. Because she is unadorned beauty and she knows what matters. May the life of this little gatherer of light be cut from the same cloth as her grandmother’s.

On my mother’s birthday this year, we drove to Salt Lake together to listen to my older brother’s band play. On the car ride up mom told stories about her childhood. But the notable thing was mom’s relative absence from so many of her own stories. The stories were always about others, like her life has been. Her kind hero big sister Kris, the Dave Silva Fan Club, the people at the warehouse where she used to go to church in Southern California. You should have seen the way mom watched as God might as her oldest son played quirky music on the bass and keyboard and theremin accompanied by quirky, holy men, one of whom played a singing saw (I imagined the love God must feel for every person in that small indie record shop that evening, divine love nestling into their pockets like coins, just to be close to them; this is the love of a parent). I thought about the small boy I used to watch perched atop the piano bench with perfect posture, magic fingers moving, and knew mom was thinking of that same boy, now grown grand, but still her sacred sparrow, twig-legged and open-beaked. She smiled like transfiguration there.

My mom suffers long, and is kind, and envies not, and is not anywhere close to puffed up, has never sought her own (perhaps has lost any claim of ownership whatsoever), is not easily provoked (trust me, I would know), thinks no evil, and rejoices in the truth, bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. My mom is the pure love of Christ, and she endures forever.

Well, who put the bomp in the bomp bah bomp bah bomp? Who put the ram in the rama lama ding dong? Who put the bop in the bop shoo bop shoo bop? Who put the dip in the dip da dip da dip? It was mom. And, boy, am I glad she did.


  1. Your expressions of awe for the day to day are so thrilling. This sure makes me love being a mom myself :)

  2. Beautiful. I'm sure you filled your mother's heart with warmth and sunshine upon her reading this. I know you surely did mine. Thanks for the message :)