on both coasts, saw six children into this world. And when she looks at
me, I suspect that she sees things that I have only begun to understand
about myself. I look to her when I look for honest answers as to who I
have become, and in what direction I am headed.
About a month ago, at a barbecue in the park for my grandnephew's
second birthday, I was to see my mother's eyes display their full
spectrum in the span of an hour. It was a slightly overcast day, but just
warm enough to make it all seem perfect. My mother and I sat on a picnic
bench, sipping soda from foam cups and watching my nephew and his wife
busy themselves with trying to keep their son from killing himself on a
Things were good. Everyone had jobs. Everyone was in reasonably good
health. My eldest sister, who over the years had given my mother the most
cause for concern, was back on her game, had been working and staying out
of trouble for more than a year. She and her girlfriend Elizabeth were
also watching my nephew, her son, from another vantage point in the park.
I felt happy to be among family on such a peaceful day, and I could
tell from the softness in my mother's eyes that she felt the same. I
talked to her about my job, about my column, and she laughed at the
notion of people actually caring enough to read about our family's
"Things are good," I said. And she nodded in agreement.
I felt the need then to tell her how it took me years of being on my
own to understand what a remarkable accomplishment it was for her to
raise six kids with only a sliver of help from my dad. I told her that it
never failed to amaze me when I considered that, despite the poverty in
which we had lived, I could remember going to bed hungry only once. Once
in all my childhood. At this, a change came over my mother, and the
lightness in her eyes vanished. "No, that isn't true, o7 mijof7 ," she
said, staring at her great-grandson playing in the sand. "You went to bed
hungry more than just once."
I looked at her, startled by what she had said. It went against what I