When I was a teenager, she and I had tons of little personal jokes. Some came from television shows, books we had both read, music and really just anything that came up. I think we both had the same bored sort of brain that made us notice all the goofy little things that struck us as funny.
Music was a huge part of my life back then. Not making it so much as listening to it. Most of my life there has been one song or another playing in my brain all of the time. So, lots of my inside jokes referenced lyrics that had gotten stuck up there at one point or another.
That’s why I started calling her Joe.
She was known by all to have a bit of a temper. I laughingly blamed her for any sort of cuss word that slipped out of my mouth. If you startled her or scared her, there was no telling what might come out. It was usually quite colorful. Whenever she would be mad, lines from one or the other of two songs would play in my head. One was was a line from Get Back, by the Beatles, “get back, JoJo”. The other was from Hendrix’s Hey Joe, “Hey Joe, where you going with that gun in your hand?”. If I sang one or the other of those lines when she was mad, it would usually earn me a look, you know, that look, but it would also usually cause her to laugh or at least relax a little.
So as time went on, it just seemed natural to call her Joe. Plus, it ticked my Dad off, which in turn, made her smile. Kind of two for the price of one.
One of the other things we shared was a love for poetry. Reading it and writing it. She wrote the coolest poetry! She had kind of a no nonsense poetry voice that was brilliant. Her poetry wasn’t all frilly and dainty, it was down to Earth and a little in your face. I always wished I could write poetry as well as her. I also wish I had kept every poem she had ever shared with me but through moves and upheavals, I didn’t end up with many.
I remember nights when I would be writing and it would be getting late, she would stick her head in my door and say, “It’s getting kind of late, Longfellow.” Funny the things you remember, huh? Funny all the little things you forget until you spend some time remembering.
Whenever I see someone hanging out wash, I think of her singing. When I was just a wee little lad, she would bring me outside while she was at the clothesline, and she would sing. Most of the songs I don’t remember but one that has always stuck in my head is “Little Boxes on the Hillside…”. I always kind of thought she sang that one as a warning to me.
So here comes another Mother’s Day. She’s been gone for a few years now and I miss her…a lot. I’m hoping she sees me out here in the shade, listening to the hawks flying over the pond across the street and it makes her smile.
I just wish I could read the poetry she must be writing these days.