Wherever children are admired like prize flowers, there standing in the shadows is a mother who tended and protected the garden they grew in. And where children who have no mother are nevertheless admired, it’s because some father or caring individual toiled in providing a mother’s care.
Having shared four poems I wrote for our kids, I can’t leave unsaid what place their mother has had in it all. Anita is in every line I write, a part of every memory, a reason for anything beautiful and praiseworthy in our children as well as anything of value and honor in me. That captures the effect Anita has on things. It could be something as mundane as a meal, as simple as a load of laundry, or as consequential as singing a solo, helping a youngster learn to love the piano, or shaping a husband’s character. If Anita becomes a part of it, she becomes the better part of it.
I distinctly remember the first time Anita caught my eye. I was sitting in class during my second year of college while the professor waxed eloquent about a few lines from St. Paul. My attention was drawn to some other ‘fine lines’ as they recited themselves across the campus lawn outside my window. I remember other ‘firsts’ as well—our first date, the first gift she bought me, first kiss, first Christmas present I got her, first argument, and I could go on.
All the best memories I enjoy have Anita in them. Her imprint is even upon those happy memories I have of my childhood and youth before I knew her. She becomes part of my enjoyment of them. Her enjoyment of them increases my enjoyment of them. It’s like they lose a bit of existence on account of not having been perceived and enjoyed by her. Anita is a part of my enjoyment of the whole world. She’s literally woven herself into every stitch of the fabric that makes up our home and placed herself on every line and space of musical notation which is the score that I and our children have come to call our life.
I’ve placed a picture of Julia Childs at the head of these reflections not because Anita is a wonderful cook (though she is that) but because Julia broadly represents what I’m trying to describe about Anita, and that is how Anita brings out what is best in things. The same ingredients in just any pot might turn out to be an average or even subpar meal. But in Julia’s pot, with her involvement, her ‘touch’ and attention, those ingredients achieve something wonderful, unforgettable even. With just the right combination of spices, temperature, pressure, and a good sense of taste, ingredients find themselves in relation to one another and only then yield up their very best.
In the same way, when you take all I’ve alluded to in poems about our children—their energies, creativity, education, development, training, all of it— you’ll find Anita has been the manager of it all, standing over it watchfully like Julia overtop a pot of Beef Bourguignon, never disconnected from the smallest divergence or progress, always taste-testing to insure that things are on track, always involved. That’s who my wife is and the sort of affect she has on the world.
Anita hasn’t just kept or managed whatever house we happen to have lived in, she herself became where we’ve lived and where the kids grew up. She is the place we call home, the space that has made possible all the events we call our family. She works and labors—no, more like lives—for those special, intangible ‘moments’ when the enjoyment peaks, like the peaks of a mountain range, in the words, touches, smiles and glances of loved ones and friends gathered. There is nothing more beyond those moments for which she toils or about which she cares. They are that for which she toils, the summits from which she views the world below.
Prayer: To be a mother is to reflect your image, God. You are everything good in our reflection of you—father, mother, lover, brother, sister, friend. And you have loved me unconditionally through your handmaiden, Anita, for more than 30 years now. Love her through me in return. Lord.