‘My Mom’s Been Asking for a Happy Poem All My Life’ by Jennifer Givhan

So I fight all my destructive urges to give her one. A tiny globe 
filled with first snow I’m determined not to shatter across blacktop. 
Once, in the parking lot of Home Depot, we got into the blue van 
& everything felt off, uncanny, a fast-food wrapper from a place  
we hadn’t eaten, the dashboard dustier than it should’ve been.  
It took us a full thirty seconds, Mom in the driver’s 
seat though she hadn’t driven in years, me in the passenger, her ride- 
or-die since I was a little girl & one of her only friends in our strange & 
tiny border town, before we realized This isn’t our van! & we scrambled 
out, laughing our heads off & terrified the owner  
had called the cops on the women who look like twins  
carjacking them. We laugh about it every time we’re in a parking lot.  
That wasn’t our only Lucy & Ethel moment. There was the time  
we ordered what we thought was a roll from the drive- 
thru at Panera Bread, thinking we’d share it to split the calories  
but when the server handed it to us, the long, thin bread kept 
coming through the window. Mom & I thought  
baguette meant roll, it sounded petit. & although this poem’s  
only point is to make Mom happy it’s also to heal 
something in myself I hadn’t known needed a balm until the words 
hit the page, the way moms know, the way mine sent me flowers  
when the love of my young life got another girl pregnant & left me  
heartbroken & without a prom date, or when Mom gave me a gold 
nutcracker pin after the ballet recital when all the other girls got 
flowers & I shoved the beautiful pin back at her because it wasn’t flowers. 
And she said flowers wilt. I wanted to get you something 
that would last forever. Like her love. A poem can be sentimental  
because poems are filled with life, but sometimes we need to look 
our moms in the eyes & apologize. Or say thank you. 
Our moms remind us what it felt like when we were safe 
in their arms, even if our moms weren’t safe, even  
if they were only holding it together for us, to give us a happiness 
they’d created from thin air. Motherhood is made of that
magic. I’m crying now. Mom, I promise, they’re happy tears.

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