On banana pancackes and mothers as the first educators

On the eve of mother’s day I am reflecting on the role that mothers play in our lives and it occurs to me that my mother not only gave me life but she was also my first educator. Obviously. But it is not only that she taught me how to do all those physical things that are necessary for survival. She was my spiritual educator as well. Not just by her words, but thru her actions, everyday. Our generation tends to be a very ungrateful one. More than that, we are very perfectionistic, often seeking perfection in others before we look at our own house. More than anyone, we expect our mothers to be perfect. Our mothers were human beings, just like us, on a path to perfecting ourselves thu effort, pain and sacrifice. None of our moms were perfect, but they did give of themselves, to an extent that often makes us envious.

I dedicate the poem “Banana Pancakes” to all our mothers, and to a moment of reflection on all we have to be grateful for.

Banana Pancakes

Banana pancakes
made from scratch…
What’s that? Scratch.
Nobody knows
that taste anymore,
the reason we did
is because we were poor.

Mom took old bananas
too precious to pitch
milk that had “turned,”
mixed in ingredients
from cupboards that yearned
for a little more fill.
With her love for leaven
nothing smelled so like heaven
or kept off the chill,
made your hungering stomach
seem so filled.

What mom could produce
from cupboards half bare,
what we witnessed her share,
when they came to the door
asking did Ms. Jane
have something to spare,
was a mystery to us
who learnt at her knee.

“Put half of the cornmeal
in a paper bag,
there’s some beans in the back there
and an onion right here
There, run to the gate
and be real polite,
and here, take this bread
to give them a bite.”

Four wide-eyed kids
didn’t know we were poor
from where she gave
there would always be more.
But if we had little
there were others with less
We thought we had plenty
She said we were blessed.

Ah!… Nobody knows
the love and care
of banana pancakes
from a cupboard that’s bare.
Till this day I smell them
that soul-comfort food
Banana pancakes —
There’s nothing as good.

And nobody knows
that lingering taste,
those pebbles of kindness,
my mother’s grace,
dropped in the pond
of the mind of a child,
and rippling forever
till the Great Beyond.

My mother Jane with four of the kids: Tina, Carolyn, Tracie and baby Rhea

About rheaharmsen

Rhea Harmsen is a scientist, novelist and author of Language of the Spirit, a volume of selected poems. She has also released three novels, The Harvest of Reason, Intermarry, and God Created Women. Harmsen was born in a family with a black father and a white mother at a time when interracial marriage was still illegal in some states. Her parents gave her a vision of world citizenship that informs her writing and her lifestyle and has caused her to reject traditional views of race and gender. Harmsen's article "Science in the Hands of Women: Present Barriers, Future Promise" appeared in World Order in 1998 and provides the foundation for the story line for her novel The Harvest of Reason. She co-published the Monroeville Race Unity Forum Bulletin and authored many poems on racial topics, crystallizing the "conversation on race" in the novel Intermarry. Her work with domestic violence survivors in Puerto Rico inspired the novel God Created Women. Harmsen holds a doctorate in Plant Breeding and Plant Genetics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She currently resides in Puerto Rico. Upcomming projects are described in her web page at rheaharmsen.com
This entry was posted in educators, mother's day, mothers, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

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