What is a Mother?

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If man was made from the dust of the earth and woman cut from his rib, my mother was sawed from the bayou’s bone. A daughter of cypress knees, Spanish moss, and spent shotgun shells, she was reared on a lane with a passel of boys–a rough and tumble crew of scabby, bb-gunning, scratching, cussing boys. She learned to spot snakes–water moccasins and coral alike–spit on a scraped knee, and climb trees. She cut her literary teeth on Planet of the Apes, knew the names of superheroes and villains.

My grandfather told me she was a bona fide daddy’s girl, a parasitic, stick to the hip sort. He took her hunting in the basin of a Louisiana bayou, and poor shot as she was, she winged a green crested mallard. He rowed to the gaggling bird, swimming circles, black-marble eyed. “Finish him,” gramps said, “or we’ll have to break his neck.” She was tough girl, but didn’t have much use for shotguns after that. This is how the story goes, anyhow.

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