Mothers “In the pupils of my eyes. . .”

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“Dear auntie will come with puja-presents and will ask, ‘Where is our baby, sister?’ Mother, you will tell her softly,  ‘He is in the pupils of my eyes, he is in my [bones] and in my soul.'” (Tagore. “The End”)

I don’t remember at all when or where I read this line, written by the Indian poet, Rabindranath Tagore, but I know it was in my mind soon after my mother died in July of 1994.  Nearly a year later, when her ashes were returned to me by the research center of the University of Alabama, Tagore’s words had become part of my way of thinking about

I kept those ashes in Michigan, where I was then living, until my son and I could take them to North Georgia to dig them into the dirt over my father’s grave.  As I walked around my house and land in Michigan, which my mother never saw, I imagined I was looking at everything through her eyes–which were now somehow inside my own.  She seemed, in fact, to be “in the pupils of my eyes.”  And my world looked different as a tax

I have never lost that palpable sense of her presence–of her with me, of her in me.  It is one of the ways I think of all the women in this family of women–six sisters, their mother–all dead for many years now–their daughters, my five cousins and I. .

Leonard Cohen wrote:

“You say you’ve gone away from me/but I can feel you when you breathe.”


I am a granddaughter and a daughter and a mother and, as of a year ago, a grandmother.

I am sitting in my living room at 3:00 on a Friday morning, keeping the unpredictable hours of a seventy-year-old woman in questionable health, and looking at walls, deep window ledges, and tables covered with photographs of my mother and all her sisters and their mother and my father’s mother.  I can’t imagine starting my day without them.1785741000

IMG_6706Garner by the Seaside

Garner on a bench





I never tire of looking at these photographs of my mother–Garner Inez Gentry Robertson–lounging on a park bench, clad in dark clothes and sunglasses on a rocky coastline somewhere I don’t know.  She looks glamorous in these pictures.  As a schoolgirl–possibly twelve and, I’ve been told, sixteen, she is just lovely.  No matter how much I have moved in my gypsy existence, these photos have never been misplaced.. My mother, my aunts–all mothers to me at one time or another–their mother.   I see them all.  I have no way of thinking about Mother’s Day without thinking about every one of them.  Without, in fact, thinking about all the mothers–my daughter-in-law; myself.

Dean and Marcus Face to Face 1971


Kate and Garner 2

And I think about Lydia Roper and her houseful of children on Freemason Street in Norfolk, Virginia.  Her great-granddaughter, Molly, says that one thing we know for certain about Lydia Roper is that her children adored her.

I would think that would be enough for any of us, celebrating our motherhood today.unnamed (4)


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8 Responses to "Mothers “In the pupils of my eyes. . .”"
  1. Alison Daniels says:

    Beautifully written as always

  2. Ellen says:

    Lovely. I don’t use that word much, but here it is appropriate. I’ll never be a mother, however I was a daughter once.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Love this!! I think of my mother all the time. Mothers Day has always been hard for me
    I know you cherish those pictures. I love looking at them when I visit. Ann

  4. Mary Jane says:

    All these women and you among them make me think of a string if softly lustrous pearls. Love you, dear friend.
    Thank you for helping me through some tough times mothering my children.

  5. Marcia S. says:

    This is a beautiful and sentimental tribute to not only your love for your mother, but a gracious description of your love for the women of your family. This causes me to feel a deeper love and gratitude for these same women in my life . I’m so grateful that you did this specially with the pictures that brought tears to my eyes and loving nostalgia to my heart. I never thought about it before but each of these women mothered me in different ways. I love you for doing this as it has enlarged my love understanding and respect for each of the women in my life. I have much to ponder and embrace of the past in these relationships in a new light. Thank you for this lovely gift on Mother’s Day.

  6. Amber Gregg says:

    It’s amazing how so many people in our lives can be a “mother figure” because of the important role they played. I also love having photos of my family all over my walls and I take them with me every time I move.

  7. Lisa Wayman says:

    Motherhood demands so much. It is sentimental, lovely and so challenging all at the same time. Here is a poem I wrote about my daughter who is now a lovely young woman.

    Lament on Katie’s 16th birthday

    I want to tuck her into my darkness
    Open muscle, separate rib,
    Fold her, knees to chin
    Into a space beside my heart
    Safe once again in my
    Personal red ocean
    Comfort her with the wave-beat
    Of my pulse.

    But she is all sharp elbows
    And sharper words.
    Glaring contempt from heavy-lidded eyes
    Declaring independence and demanding
    MORE MORE MORE in the same breath.
    Hatred oozes from her pores.
    Discontent poisons the air.

    I am a bitch
    With teats bleeding
    From an ungrateful whelp
    Nursed overlong.
    I turn and snarl,
    Teeth bared, patience gone.
    She cries, hurt, still needing
    Mother love.

    I understand the ancient Goddess
    Swallowing her near-grown young
    Motivated by equal parts
    Fear and frustration.
    Still, I long to tuck her into
    The too small space beside my heart
    And hold her safe again.

  8. Kat Varn says:

    What a beautiful tribute to feminine power. I love the classy photos that don’t compare to today’s trending selfies. The transition from daughter to embracing the strengths we leave the nest with are fascinating and complicated. What beautiful jewels are in your legacy.

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