The Mama Posts: Reflections on My Mother, January 15, 2013

Published by Tuesday, January 15, 2013 Permalink 0
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by Jonell Galloway

My mother saw the world through beauty until she went blind seven years ago.

Will the metronome stop suddenly, will my fingers stop playing, frozen in their accustomed position, no longer able to stroke the keys to the rhythm of life? Will the angels stop singing?












When she goes, will I ride through life without a song? Will all the music stop? Will I still be able to keep a beat, listen to Horowitz in the same way? Every time I hear a hymn, will I remember her beautiful alto voice as my grandmother played her upright piano and the extended family sang shape-note hymns in harmony on a Sunday afternoon after church?

Will I cry every time I hear or read Whitman or Longfellow, or the many poems she knows by heart and can still recite? Will poetry ever be the same, or will it too lose its capacity to take me into its arms and soothe the day’s wounds?

Will I look at a painting, a quilt, a piece of art, and still perceive its beauty? Will visual beauty have the same all-encompassing, skip-a-breath effect it has now, or will it become cerebral and dull?

English: Presentation quilt from Oahu, c. 1855...


Every quilt she made was an objet d’art. Will quilts all be beautiful, or will they take on an unforeseen ugliness, forever bringing my mother back to life like a dagger through my heart? Quilts will become like life — pieces patched together however the quilter can, using whatever is available; living life with whatever, however it takes to survive — not art. Or will they? Perhaps that’s what art is, and not some planned and orderly activity. It’s about putting the chaos into some form that is aesthetic, pleasing, and has an important message.


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  • Elatia Harris
    January 16, 2013

    Everything is as beautiful now as it was when my mother first showed it to me. She was not at all musical but very literary and artistic — whatever I see or read, that is any good at all, will always remind me of her. Not in the sense that it was she who first told me about it — I have had many teachers since. But in the sense that I will always want to talk with her about it. When I see something really thrilling, that is just what she would have loved, I still cannot quite come to terms with her never knowing about it — never. Curiously, while this is sad, I feel sorry for people whose mothers simply came and went, and are now truly gone, even as their daughters live.

    That’s a gorgeous quilt! One of hers? I hope you have one.

    • Jonell Galloway
      January 17, 2013

      Both our mothers have left us with a a wealth of resources we can call on to meet the world and survive, and the depth and “tools” to perceive the beauty around us. That makes all the difference in a life well-lived.

  • Ed Black
    January 18, 2013

    A thing of beauty is a joy for ever:
    Its loveliness increases; it will never
    Pass into nothingness; but still will keep
    A bower quiet for us, and a sleep
    Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing.
    Therefore, on every morrow, are we wreathing
    A flowery band to bind us to the earth,
    Spite of despondence, of the inhuman dearth
    Of noble natures, of the gloomy days,
    Of all the unhealthy and o’er-darkened ways
    Made for our searching: yes, in spite of all,
    Some shape of beauty moves away the pall
    From our dark spirits. Such the sun, the moon,
    Trees old and young, sprouting a shady boon
    For simple sheep; and such are daffodils
    With the green world they live in; and clear rills
    That for themselves a cooling covert make
    ‘Gainst the hot season; the mid forest brake,
    Rich with a sprinkling of fair musk-rose blooms:
    And such too is the grandeur of the dooms
    We have imagined for the mighty dead;
    All lovely tales that we have heard or read:
    An endless fountain of immortal drink,
    Pouring unto us from the heaven’s brink.

    I wish I had the eloquence of Keats, but this is the best I can do. I hope it brings you the kind of comfort it has brought me over the years.

    • Jonell Galloway
      January 27, 2013

      This is so beautiful that it brings a tear to my eye. Keats always says it better than just about anyone. I’m going to read it to my mother. Be well.