iced ground wind-whipped snow
mother squirrel looks for scarce food
huddled nestlings wait
* * * * *
She’s sitting on the frigid deck rail outside my kitchen window.
I’m sitting at my kitchen table, eating hot breakfast.
Her nipples stand out—she has babies to feed.
Her coat is heavy, tangled, patchy, worn.
She watches me from her icy perch.
She seems anxious, haggard.
She doesn’t rest for long.
The babies are hungry.
So is she.
I can’t help thinking about Mother. Especially after we moved out of our communal Southwest home into our one-family Southeast home. Yes, it was quiet, less frenetic. Good for Mother’s health. But I wonder.
Being on our own as a family is a shock. Mother is still recovering from polio, finding ways to live life without bodily functions she can’t take for granted anymore. Yet no matter how she feels, we need to eat. Three times a day.
I think about our communal home. Here’s what Mother can’t count on anymore:
- Women who share cooking, cleaning, and other daily chores
- A large kitchen set up for daily cooking from scratch, with lots of workspace and storage space
- A cellar lined with shelves of home-canned fish, vegetables, fruits, applesauce, jams, jellies and sauerkraut, plus large batches of whole wheat flour, oatmeal, sugar, powdered milk, canned milk, and other non-perishable bulk items
- Citrus trees, berry bushes, and a large vegetable garden tended by some of the men and women
- Chickens that lay eggs regularly; other chickens that someone can butcher for dinner
- A dairy farm just across the highway where milk is abundant and cheap
- Shared resources, especially when it comes to food
- Someone to fill in for her or take care of us when she needs to rest or be away for physical therapy
Granted, it wasn’t paradise. People had to get along with each other. Some seemed to do more of their fair share than others. But we weren’t hungry, and Mother wasn’t responsible for getting it all on the table three times a day.
Haiku written 12 January 2014
© Elouise Renich Fraser, 16 February 2014