Coherent Narratives

Dear Parent,

You might not know this about me (amidst all you do know):  I am a closet poet.  I used to be less closeted about it. Thought for awhile I would actually call myself a poet.  But that was when I was younger and had not yet found my calling (or read any real poets.) Yesterday, I wrote a little blog about mothers and one of my readers mistook it as a poem. She said it sounded like one.  It really wasn’t, though her comments sparked a memory that I was once a writer of poems.

In a minute I am going to share an actual poem I wrote some thirty years ago when I was wrestling with the notion of having a coherent narrative–that was long before I ever knew there was such a thing.  All of my life to that point, I had been trying to figure out what really happened in my childhood.  If you have read my book, you know more about that than you probably want.  Still, I tried to get coherent about my personal history before I was a therapist and before I was an adoptive mother.  I had no idea at the time why, except a nagging feeling that I would feel better if I understood my childhood better. Now I do know, and I want you to know so you begin to think about getting your narrative into coherent shape, too.  If you do, your relationship with your adoptive children will get better.

When you hear the angry sound of your mother’s words and voice tone coming out of your mouth while upset or challenged by your children, then you can know that your narrative has a bit of incoherence in it.  You are acting out the imprinted parenting of your childhood, perhaps without mindfulness.  The question is:  Do you want to be the same as your parent when she/he was upset?  If your parent was great, then the answer will most likely be yes.  If your parent was not so much great, then you might want to become more thoughtful yourself about your personal childhood story.

A well understood story is the beginning of a life well lived.  An incoherent, buried, denied or rejected story, may wreak havoc in your life, especially in your parenting life.  It is never too late to have a well examine childhood or to change a painful bout of parenting missteps into compassion for yourself and your child.

This is a poem about my mother.  It was my first attempt at a coherent narrative.


For that moment at least

I was you—

            from “Images of Godard”

            —Adrienne Rich


I remember a snapshot of you

and a Christmas turkey losing its wing to the blade of your

butcher’s knife

the camera’s flash caught the point

throwing white light across your face

leaving only the turkey focused


I remember about you      but I can’t quite see your face

your face that looked like me      Grandma says

like me when I’m angry or napping

you had fiery red hair stacked tall on your head

and there was some family joke about Dad

standing on a milk crate in a long lost portrait

trying to be taller     taller than you and your persona

“We never messed with your Mom” teased the men from the shop

where you worked your knuckles red and chapped

stripping flesh from bone     slicing muscle from fat

“She was a tough lady” they smiled fear lined admiration

no woman could match your easy wit and razor sharp tongue

no woman of your apron bound generation


Holding my shoulders high like you

my tongue as sharp and fiery

I sometimes scar others as you once scarred me


Passing the butcher shop today

I glimpsed my reflection

in the storefront window

and for a brief moment     my hands ached

and I knew myself as you


Love matters,

The Attach Place

The Attach Place Center for Strengthening Relationships



Ce Eshelman, LMFT is an attachment therapist, adoptive mother, stepmother, guardian mother, dog/cat mother, grandmother, not her husband’s mother, and author of:

picture of cover


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