On rare occasions
such as birthday parties,
the mothers would smoke
filtered cigarettes
and it had to be done in the kitchen
where they giggled like teenagers.
They went to the hairdresser
to get curls once a month
and on birthdays, they used hairspray.

On other occasions
such as funerals in rain
and Tupperware parties
they would smile sadly,
lips painted red,
the curls covered with head cloths
and when another baby was born,
they would do both and cry hard, giving tea parties
using Tupperware containers for cookies
that would taste plastic.

I don’t wear lipstick often
and I do not smoke.
I don’t care too much
for birthday parties,
I don’t own any Tupperware
and I try to avoid going to funerals.
I liked having all my children
and I never have cookies
when they come by the house.

I would not fit in my own childhood as a mother.

But maybe they went out
to drink wine later in the day, and read
philosophical poetry
with total strangers,
not understanding anything
but falling in love
and waking up in a motel
next to a god.

Now I can relate to that.
Yes, I could be
a mother in the sixties. If I had to.
If you were that god and if
there was a Tupperware container
that I could actually open
to give cookies.
But only
if I was not my child.

I could not do that part.


Comments on: "Mothers" (38)

  1. excellent piece….like how you go into their world…and how you cant see yourself….unless they are next to that god…and then the turn personal if they were that god for you…i would love to hear this one…think it would come across well spoken word

    • Hi Brian, thank you very much. Mothers in the sixties, I often wondered how it was for them – with no laundry machine, no hot running water etc. A different world but they tried to be modern and go by the rules of fashion πŸ™‚

  2. Ah what a wonderful piece .. you capture me in the sixties mother’s world .. (though not my mother).. there is a certain technicolor ideal in that beginning.. and then that ties to an alternate world.. other ideals .. and that god.

    • Hi BjΓΆrn, thank you very much. πŸ™‚ The sixties mothers (the stay at home mums) perfectioned the house keeping I think. Clean, everything had to be spotless. I am not half as good in that skill as they were. They all were! lol

  3. Glenn Buttkus said:

    Well, I really loved the feel, the ragged sensual rhythms of the piece, but for me you are describing the mothers of the 50’s, because in my memory, the mothers of the 60’s were burning bras, wearing tie-dyed shirts, had flowers in their hair, were beginning to invade the workplace, beginning to understand, to value their own selves, & their womanhood; just saying.

    • lol well where I live, we were a bit later than in the US πŸ™‚ It was still very fifties in the sixties overhere! (an island in The Netherlands) πŸ™‚ In the seventies, it started to change here too.

  4. Yes, Tupperware is out, although many seem nostalgic about the Tupperware parties. I imagine the next generation of mothers will have grown even further apart from the current lot.

  5. Fascinating. Interesting to think if we of today would fit into our own childhood as a mother. Somehow I doubt many of us would. I wonder if Tupperware exists anymore, and I don’t see too many lips painted bright red!

    • My mother was very liberal in a lot of ways, but when my father was home from sea, things were different. I think my mother was way ahead of her time in ideas of upbringing, but she would also spank if she thought I needed that. She thought that a lot.

  6. I became a mother in the sixties. I went to a tupperware party once and bought a pitcher I never used. I hate plastic, red lipstick and smoking. My mother smoked and I was so relieved to move out and not smell it again. In her fifties or sixties she quit when an ash dropped on an expensive (very) silk dress. ..cold turkey she said and never picked one up again. Those women had some glamour in their eyes but I liked my more natural approach to life..sans makeup, braided hair, and barefoot. I have baked a lot of cookies though – I confess. Good poem, very evocative.

    • Thank you very much! My mother only smoked every now and then btw, I only saw her do it twice I think, just to look elegant πŸ™‚ she was not a smoker and she didn’t use make-up much, just a blusher as she had pale cheeks, and a lipstick if there was something to celebrate, but then she looked like a moviestar πŸ™‚ Your mother was wise to stop cold Turkey, well done!

  7. Right at the heart of this is an intriguing philosophical question; would I have wanted me as either a parent or a child? The lives we live now are so different to those our parents lived; the pace of change is frightening … and still accelerating.

    • My eldest son is a father now, it is weird to see how he worries the same way I used to and my mother did. πŸ™‚

  8. This is stunning, I absolutely loved it. It reminds me of a film (darn, I wish I could remember the title of it!), about the lives of 60s mothers. You depicted it all so brilliantly, and your observations were spot on.

  9. My first thought was Mad Men. Like a few others here back in the ’60’s my mom worked, didn’t smoke, didn’t curl her hair, didn’t do tupperware, etc. but I know many where just like your description.

  10. Not bad at all! πŸ™‚

  11. Really love this one Ina! I felt I was watching a 60s play on TV, I visualised all of it! Tupperware was all the rage when I became a young mother; it was the extent of my social life I think!! Lol L&H xx

    • πŸ™‚ Well Tupperware was a hit πŸ™‚ My mother also organised parties, and then she got a bargain and we had sooo much plastic stuff πŸ™‚ L&H xx

  12. Oh, wonderful. I love this. Great opening! Just love the perspective of a woman like this, the confidence and insecurity, the contemplation and comparisons that you put in through the cigarettes and cookies.

    Amazing. This piece I’ll remember for a while… smiles.

  13. This is truly wonderful.

    My mother was a stay-at-home mum until my father died – then she had to work to be able to bring us all up.

    I doubt if I appreciated her as much at the time as I do looking back!!

    David xxx

    • Hi David, thank you!

      I admire your mother for bringing up her family, it can’t have been easy. Looking back I also understand more of my own mother. I suppose time helps a lot!

      Arohanui πŸ™‚ xxx

  14. I bought loads of it and often wondered after I got it home why! It always seemed like the perfect piece when being demonstrated and I would look at it the day after and think, “This is usless”!! Xx

  15. I couldn’t be a mother in those days and I absolutely couldn’t have been a mother to myself. I would have driven myself to drink. What a pleasure to read πŸ™‚

    Thank you so much for your wonderful comments on my poem πŸ™‚

  16. Brilliant Ina, absolutely brilliant. You evoke a time and mood so perfectly and with such subtle humour…saw my own mum in your words…Hi mum…

  17. I have a….complex….relationship with my mother. Although I was born at the end of the decade, there was nothing ‘Sixties’ about my parents: as far as I know, they don’t own a single Beatles record! My big fear now, of course, is that I’m turning into them…back to the poem, it is as insightful and thoughtful and moving as ever. N.x

    • Thank you very much Nick πŸ™‚ Oh, parents! lol and here we are, being parents ourselves! My parents didn’t have Beatles too, my father liked Vera Lynn lol. πŸ™‚ My mother didn’t care for music and my father also liked Irish folksongs. He brought home a lot of Decca and other single records, An English country garden and The time has come πŸ™‚ They were more fifties than sixties πŸ™‚ x

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