(Crystal A. Proxmire, May 8, 2016)
Warren, MI – Sometimes around 3am author Desiree Cooper will wake with a sense of trepidation, only to find no obvious cause. This led her to learn of “the witching hour,” an idea that at 3am evil spirits arise in anticipation of the crucifixion of Christ, which is said to have happened at 3pm. This folklore explaining those middle of the night mystery feelings inspired a short story of the same name in her book “Know The Mother.”
She said Know The Mother is about “unraveling the mystery of women. Who gave you life? Who were they and what were their mysteries?”
Her mother lives in Virginia and has Alzheimer’s disease, a challenging and deeply personal experience that Cooper is living through as a public figure and as a daughter. The result has been some profoundly open writing about women and the roles of mother, daughter, granddaughter, and wife.
Cooper read the short story Know The Mother, which began “As I wash my mothers back, her scent fills my nostrils. Already, she smells like a garden unearthed, a freshly dug grave. I soak the cloth in warm water and witch hazel; she sighs as I swab her shrunken thighs, her shriveled feet. “Don’t leave me,” I plead beneath my breath. She twitches and my heart leaps – maybe she’s changed her mind and has decided to stay with me a little longer. But for the next three hours she gives me nothing to hold on to – not one fluttering eyelid, not a wan smile of possibility. She is leaving me so easily, I wonder if her love ever rose above duty.”
The story talks of the main character falling asleep at her mother’s side and dreaming of her heading off on to a big stage. “I dream that my mother is dressed in a black taffeta gown. Her cheeks are rouged with stage makeup, her eyes shimmering. On cue, she makes her way to the curtain. I call her name three times, but nothing I say can make her look back.”
The honoring of motherhood though is not just about the memories, but about celebrating the feminine powers in everyone.
Of particular inspiration for Mothers’ Day is Julia Ward Howe who wrote “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” to show the evil of the American Civil War. She was a wealthy woman of her own right, a suffragist and an abolitionist. In 1870 Ward Howe founded a weekly suffragist magazine called Woman’s Journal, in which she wrote “Appeal to womanhood throughout the world.” This later became the Mother’s Day Proclamation. It asked for women to join together for world peace. Cooper said that “One that song became popular she began to think about her own emancipation as a woman and she began to work for women’s equality later in life.”
Cooper also shared the story of Anna Reese Jarvis. Jarvis set out to have a day dedicated to all mothers, living and deceased. In 1914 Woodrow Wilson signed Mother’s Day into law. Jarvis honored her own mother who had helped form clubs of women who provided medical attention to soldiers during the civil war. They treated both Union and Rebel soldiers, caring only about the value of saving lives. The clubs also worked to educate about sanitation methods such as boiling water, keeping food from spoiling, and basic medical care.
Cooper urged the women in the room to learn about their mothers and other women, and to embrace their own power and love. “There’s something just as powerful as a mother’s prayers. Perhaps even more powerful is the mother’s actions,” she said.
Cooper herself is a woman of action. In addition to being an author she has been a correspondent for the BBC, editor of Metro Times, a columnist for the Detroit Free Press, a spokesperson for Planned Parenthood, an attorney, a mother, and the owner of the Detroit Snob clothing line., and a billion other wonderful things that would make this story exceed the “short short” standard that is admirable about Cooper’s collection of work. Read more at http://www.descooper.com/knowthemotherthebook/.