I am an old woman named after my mother
My old man is another child that's grown old
If dreams were lightning thunder was desire
This old house would have burnt down a long time ago*
I am an old woman . . . have been for a long time now . . . so long that if a baby came my way, I’d Sarah-laugh in God’s face. Babies are for the young. And I haven’t been young since, well, I can’t even remember, now, can I?
And whenever I’m tempted to forget just how old I am, I get a look at my old man . . . now there’s a face worn by time. I do love the old coot, but where did all those wrinkles and folds and creases come from? I wish I remembered.
We had so many dreams . . . all with child faces . . . our house would be overrun with them. No children came, and so our dreams died.
Make me an angel that flies from Montgom'ry
Make me a poster of an old rodeo
Just give me one thing that I can hold on to
To believe in this living is just a hard way to go*
I don’t have much left to hold on to. . . without the babies I should have had, life is just too hard.
How is it, I sometimes wonder (although not so much anymore), that I can see their faces, know their lives, these little people of our loins who never were? Where, oh where, are my babies? How I wish I knew. Did they find other homes? Better mothers? Oh Lord, why give me this longing to never be fulfilled? I never thought you a cruel God . . . until now.
I am an old woman. . . have been for a long time now. . . the children of others tease me with their smiling, winning ways . . . I reach out my arms for them only to have mothers scoop them out from under me . . . and no, Lord, I would not laugh . . . I am not Sarah . . . I am Elizabeth – satisfaction of God . . . well, Lord, you may be satisfied with me, but I am far from satisfied with you . . . there – I said it . . . will you strike me? Sometimes I wish you would . . . for this infernal, eternal – silence – mixed with my own longing, does drive me mad . . .
And where, I would very much like to know, is my miracle? My Hannah’s promise fulfilled? My angel?
It’s not that I’m not grateful, but he appeared to the Old Man? Really? Am I not the one to bear this son? Where, then, Satisfying One, was my angel? Most days, in my joy, I do forget this slight, this favoritism. Most days. This is not one of those days. John is gone to the wilderness. I don’t know that I’ll see him again. And I do so fear what will become of him, he speaks out so. It would have been nice on days like this to have had an angel memory to hold on to. That’s all I’m saying – it would have been nice.
Please do not think me ungrateful. For this gift of a son, I am grateful. For the elimination of my shame, I am grateful.
But now I am a mother and I know what I did not know before. Now I know that my own heart does reside outside my body. It resides with him. And all will not be well with him. Will it?
So yes, an encouraging angel memory would have been nice.
I’m going to need some bucking up in these days.
So all I’m saying is that it would have been nice.
*Lyrics from Make Me an Angel, by John Prine.