My mother was successful.
She grew up in a small valley town
In Evergreen Colorado,
Born to an Italian father and Scottish mother
Who immigrated to New York just before
She was born. She went to a local college
And majored in English. Then she got a job
working in communications.
She was only one of three women working
For the company.
She worked there for over twenty years.
After year thirteen she married my father
And they decided to start a family. I would
Come along a bit later.
My mom used to tell me this story over and over:
An example of how much she loved me.
My mom was proud of her career.
She worked hard.
She was one of the first people to have a cellular
Phone installed in her car.
At the end of every year,
Her boss would make every employee in the office
A performance list, a list of goods and bads,
What employees were doing well, how they improved…
But that year my mother got her performance letter
From her boss and her heart sank.
It was not a complimentary letter like usual.
It had a few things on the “good” list,
Like she was always “punctual” and “organized”,
But nothing really notable.
And then there was the “bad” list.
Only one word.
The choice to have a child was selfish, unthinkable.
If a woman wanted to have a career then
She couldn’t possibly be a mother and housewife as well.
It was inconvenient timing, he said, it would affect her job performance.
She would have to take time off. She would be distracted.
I wasn’t even born yet. I was a little speck in her womb.
And she stood up for me.
My mother defended me.
Maybe because she and my dad were trying to start a family,
Or maybe because she refused to be threatened,
Or because she didn’t consider it a valid reason to leave her career,
But my mom continued to work there.
And after I was born, she took a few weeks off
For maternity leave. And then she went right back
To work, and took her with me.
I had a little corner in her office with a crib and toys.
I would sit in silence in board meetings,
Wide-eyed and attentive, seated across from her boss
At the other end of the table.
I wasn’t a bullet point on a list anymore.
I was a person.
Mary McEwen lives in Colorado Springs, CO and is a English and Poetry major at Colorado College. She published her first book of poetry in 2014.