I’ll Fly Away

The play “Along about Sundown,” is a homey musical about Bascom Lunsford, the famous song catcher and music festival promoter in the Blue Ridge Mountains. An aging Lunsford told the stories of his life punctuated with folk songs, accompanied by the other players on traditional mountain instruments. A steady rhythm beat on the stage and the audience, myself included, happily clapped, and tapped our feet.

One song, “I’ll Fly Away,” was an old hymn I recognized from my childhood. I thought of Mama singing in church, and around the house as she worked. Once, she sang it softly to me when I lay sick in bed. Her clear, sweet voice soothed me.

Now, I suddenly felt weak with regret for not understanding what the song meant to her. I heard the words as I sat in the darkened audience, the promise of joy and hope for the time when the singer would fly away, after death, to the reward for life’s travails. The enormity of my mother’s suffering hit me, as it has so many times in the past few years. I heard her hope in the song, the Great Promise.

As tears gathered in my eyes and my throat tightened, I understood how much that song had helped my mother get from one day to the next. With so many children to be responsible for, the Great Promise helped in her daily struggle. And she struggled for everything. Everything. Rent, food, shoes for us. She struggled with Fear, fear of my father’s disapproval, of her neighbor’s disapproval, of God’s disapproval. She struggled to get us fed and clothed. She listened to us cry and gave us what comfort she could, for we all feared the same boogeyman. He lived with us, held us in the omnipotent power of Head of Household. He could do with us, to us, anything he wanted. But she carried the responsibility of it.

I choose to get up every single day. I know it, I am conscious of it, and I am open about it. How would I feel if I had little ones clinging to my skirt? How would I feel if I realized, too late, that I had nowhere to go, no one to call, no one to help me? How would I feel if I realized, in my secret heart, my cognizant heart, that I was in a corner with no way out and children who depended on me? Would I sing about a time when I could fly away? Or would I just fly away?

I can fly away today if I choose, and so I choose to go on, to experience one more day, plan one more art project, write one more story, hike one more mile. I think I am being strong, that I am fighting, struggling, and that I am brave. I am not strong, or brave. I am alone and, yes, I choose every day to experience life. It’s not a hard choice. It’s just me, after all.

My mother was brave. After all the years I spent being angry, resentful, questioning why I didn’t have this and that, I see now how very brave my mother was. I see how much she loved us, how hard she gripped that Hope and Promise so she could get through another day, taking care of us. She did the best she could. Her best will be the level of love I try to emulate. Because I am alone, my life is quieter, calmer, saner, and yes, easier. I don’t regret being alone. I don’t regret not having my mother’s life. But only now do I understand how much she loved us. She didn’t fly away.


9 responses to “I’ll Fly Away

  1. That was a beautiful piece. Thank you for sharing. I know you are seeing your mother in the best light, now. I know in a situation like this, it would be easy to be bitter. I can be bitter about my own mom sometimes, and I didn’t even grow up with half of what you did. Resent comes really easily, especially when you go through something like what you have, and it is really easy to wonder why this or that person didn’t protect you, why they let you go through this stuff. I have known people who were in similar situations who felt the same…bitter, resentful, that someone didn’t step in, or that they were given this life, or for other reasons. It’s so easy to do.

    What’s beautiful about you is that you are learning from it. You are moving on. You are finding ways to let it be a good part of you, to add to your strength as a person and try to find a way to let that enhance your life now. Some scars never heal with time. And it’s easy to say that strength comes through situations like that, but it is very hard to live.

    I agree with the alone thing…I love it. I love the fact that in terms of men, I will be alone. But in terms of being alone itself, I won’t for awhile. But I love this. It is hard being a mother sometimes, but I love it. And I love having someone every night that I spend time with. If I didn’t have her, though, I would want to be alone. Some people want someone for the sake of a person. That’s not me. Nothing’s wrong with that, but I haven’t become dependent upon being with someone with her. For me, it’s being with HER that is special, not merely being with someone. If I were with anyone, and it wasn’t her, I would ache for her. So alone or with someone else, I would miss her and ache for her. So I love being with someone, and I love being alone, but the someone I am with, if I were not with her, I would want to be alone.

  2. Reta
    Thank you for commenting. It’s been hard to get past the resentment, the anger, to just get on with living. There are still times I realize I am angry about a particular situation because of my background. You know, we’re all human; we can blame. or we can accept our situations, our backgrounds, our body types, our hair color, etc., and get on with living. I look at what I can control, and let go of what I can’t. It’s simple. NOT EASY. Simple. Sometimes ana;yzing why, why, why just muddies the water, complicates things. It is what it is, deal with that.
    Thanks again for reading and comenting. It helps to communicate!

  3. I agree, Katie. Sometimes we get into a ‘rut’ over analysing something, something that is so personal, emotional, that we can’t get out of the ditch.

    I feel the same about my situation. I couldn’t get any real and lasting affection from my mother, so I went for attracting her attention. It still didn’t work. I did, though, work myself into a lifetime of anxiety, trying to get her to respond in some meaningful way.

    I wrote and wrote and wrote on all sorts of ‘healing’ websites…until I didn’t want to be around these people anymore. I had moved on. I didn’t want to exam the same problems, issues ….because I realized I had more going in my own life than the ‘mother problem’.

    She is and always will be in concrete: I don’t have to.

    Realizing that we can break those ‘ties’ to something that functions as ‘dead’ in our lives is good.

  4. You came to a higher realization about your mother: she did the best she could under the very extreme circumstances. You came to love and honor her because of it.

    That is the real blessing, Katie. You know that your mother loved you. There can be no greater gift.


  5. Jane
    You get it. Analyzing, criticizing, examining…after a while we have to move on. The only way I know to move on is to MOVE ON. It doesn’t matter, in the end, WHY I do anything once I undestand that I am responsible for everything I do. I choose every action I take, the responsibility for consequences is mine alone. It’s daunting, sometimes, to be a real adult. But the reward is freedom and there is nothing more valuable.
    Thank you so much for reading and commenting.

  6. Aunt Kathy,

    That is wonderful and beautiful what you wrote about taking responsibility for your actions…ownership. So many people, so many ADULTS have the deepest problem with this. You are right, they want to blame, blame, blame. I can see how much clarity you have achieved in your lifetime, working thorugh all of your problems. I only wish some people could reach out and grab some of that, including some people who have never been through such. One of the thing that amazes me is that you seem to be so much more peaceful with everything than people on the outside, people who have never been through such. I know there are a lot of people who would be looking at your situation and shaking their head, saying, how could a mother do that to her own children? How could any man come before a woman’s own children to her? True, she was surrounded by children hugging her skirt, crying, probably and such, and she probably felt overwhelmed and/or trapped, but she also, to some degree, chose that situation. She chose to be a mother. It was most definitely a choice. I realize there is probably an element of fact that she was in a time and/or family situation where it was almost coerced on it. She probably felt forced into that situation, and she was probably making the best out of that situation, and probably did feel trapped. Women are so different today…strong, defiant. Refusing to accept anything but the best. Sometimes, to the other extreme…even sometimes being ridiculous on that extreme. That’s why I always say that motherhood is a choice and has very little to do with biology. The way my parents approached it was very much a failure in the system, because they chose to adopt us, and then they just kind of abandoned us emotionally, somewhat, when their biokids came along. I still consider myself lucky, because I did probably escape quite a bit of physical abuse. Maybe. (Grandfather did kill himself when I was 3, but there could have been other abusers, plus, I can’t really say for sure that the same thing would have happened had we been there…I just don’t know). But regardless, I know I can’t complain too much about my own life.

    But all of that is why I refuse to ever put my girl in a situation that is not ideal if I have the choice of one that is. I have chosen to be a mother, and I love it and love every minute of it, and I will protect her no matter what. But I think it is good when people who don’t want to be mothers and/or can’t chose NOT TO and STICK WITH IT.

    Off my soapbox. On to work. As always, Aunt Kathy, you are a true blessing to me. 🙂

  7. Reta
    In the time when my mother married, the early 30’s, there was a much bigger class distinction. There wasn’t much of a “middle class.” My mother adn father came form the poorest of the poor. Choosing to have children wasn’t conscious. When you married, you had children. My mother told me they didn’t think about it, they just did it. It seems beyond comprehension now, but that’s how it was. It WAS still a choice, but one made on poor information. In other words, if you don’t know you have a choice, you aren’t likely to make good decisions. My mother also had the baggage of her own childhood. Losing her mother, all her siblings, being the only family her father had, made her think having children was an accomplishment, something that would win her approval and love. None of this was conscience, just what made her who she was. By the time she realized she had made a terrible mistake, all she could do was try to hide it, endure it. She felt like a failure, like she was responsible so she couldn’t ask for help. And she didn’t know who to ask. She DID go to someone at her church, who got her to give him “insurance money” for each child before he could begin to look at foster families. My mother knew nothing about that kind of thing. She saved, a dollar here and there from groceries, and gave it to him. He had her sign a piece of official looking paper, which my mother found later, crumpled in the church parking lot. Another failure and who could she tell? There are predators everywhere and my mother fell under the claws of many of them. I think about her, confused, fearful, trapped and I still wonder at her ability to stay. She accepted that she had made a mistake but also a committment and she did the best she could.

  8. I can see now how lack of education or knowledge on something can almost be the same as not having a choice. Understand now. Just read the rest of your blog entries…I had not read them in awhile. I checked back a couple of times and didn’t see any new ones, so I got busy at work and it slipped my mind to check. Good to see you writing again. 🙂

    I recently had a guy who was interested in me try to convince me that I would want “my own” children (which I think it is completely HORRIBLE that he put it that way), and that I would want more. NO. I chose to be a mother this time, but I know I really couldn’t handle more. And I am certainly not having them for a guy/giving them to a guy who can’t afford them! But anyway, I have decided I want to be the mother of ONE child and that is it. And I am sticking to it! One is really all I can handle and all I want to handle. I love her to death, she is awesome, but no more. I’m chosing to not have any more children and I am STICKING WITH IT. Nothing really could change my mind. I already know love isn’t meant for me. Maybe it exists, just not for me. So at least I won’t have to worry about ever having children for “a man that I love”. Bull. Anyway.

  9. katiewritesagain

    Hey there
    Thanks for reading again-there’s a new post.
    Stick to your guns. Having chidlren for someone else is a dumb idea. We’re talking about human beings. No matter what happens with your relationship, the child EXISTS! People bring children into the world wihtout getting that those are new human beings, not cute little toys.
    I don’t know about love, I really don’t. Sometimes I wonder why I didn’t get the permanent kind, then again I wonder who really does. Just because some couple stays together for 50 years doesn’t mean thye love each other. It’s easier to stay, believe me.
    If there are people who continue to love decade after decade I tip my hat. I’m glad for them. It’s just not my reality.

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