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Mom, Cindy, Toni

Joy Kathelene Hinson with daughters Cindy and Toni in 1965


I struggle to remember
Your being alive and a part of my life.
My only clear memory--
Through seven-year old eyes--
Is of your dying.

My eyes saw your hands
Trade the grip of the wheel
For the grasp of the baby.
My eyes saw the wheel
And through the missing windshield,
My eyes saw
The sky and the earth tumble
Over the other.
Over the other.

You lay on the highway
Pinned beneath the overturned car
Waiting for help and death--
One coming slowly; the other quickly.
My little body sat quiet and still
Beside you
While my eyes gazed at the twisted, mangled
Framing your face.

Just above your trembling voice,
Someone cried.
It wasn’t me
I know;
My little body sat quiet and still
Beside you
My eyes watched your lips whisper:
       Be strong
       Always be strong

And I knew you wouldn’t like it
If I wasn’t.


Joy in 1966


I Remember Mother

By Cindy Williams
Berryville, Arkansas
Saturday, March 6, 2010

Yesterday — Friday, March 5, 2010 — marked the thirty-ninth year of my mother’s death. Two years ago, while attending a writing seminar, I turned a long story about my mother and me into a poem. My mother’s name was Joy Kathelene Hinson, so in her honor, this is how the poem came to be.

I once read a book called Motherless Daughters that revealed to me the haunting difference between growing up without my mother and growing up without a mother. Women who lose their mothers at an early age lose the opportunities for “her” specific influence — her touch, her smell, her voice, her presence. They lose opportunities to make memories with their own mother. Young girls, simply trying to grow up, inadvertently find themselves seeking out a motherly influence to help guide their “growth into womanhood.” Oftentimes, as in my life, the greatest memory is of the loss itself. There is little else my mind can return to.

I recount some of the stories of women — young and old — who have done the same. Each woman’s journey without maternal guidance takes on its own groundbreaking experiences. Many of us have had the good fortune of turning some of those experiences into reflections for which others may see themselves ... and, sometimes, they find a tiny sort of solace — either by association or disassociation — in reading another’s thoughts of mother. That is why I write sometimes. And sometimes, no one understands me at all — which makes me kind of smile inside.

Although the story in this poem takes place many years ago, this is the first time I have “zoomed in” on that fifth day of March in 1971. I have written this story many times over the years and in many forms, but I have not sat down beside my mother and looked closely at the details surrounding her and us — her four babies.

A powerful lesson, “Showing not Telling,” at the 2008 Northwest Arkansas Writing Project Invitational, taught me to look at my writing differently — and I needed to. Armed with a great idea and a need for recursive revision, I read my first draft (full with telling, empty of showing) to my response group — Jamie Highfill and Kelly Buckley. They, ever-so-gently, ushered me closer to the details I had mostly kept at a distance — details that would take them to the accident with me.

So, following more revisions, having many conversations with like-minded writers, and sharing experiences that changed our DNA, my writing began to see an old story with new eyes.

Interestingly, this is the oldest story I know and it is one of those “Seven Stories” that define me. To have been taught to empower this story is to bow with great admiration to all of my colleagues at the 2008 Northwest Arkansas Writing Project Invitational and to say thank you for sharing your hearts, your minds, and your souls with me through the words you so powerfully pen.

And, thank you Jamie and Kelly for helping me to see ... I hope I took you there.

Cindy Williams lives on a farm outside Berryville, Arkansas, with her husband Glenn. Her family includes five sons, two daughters-in-law, three step-daughters, two step sons-in-law, and four grandchildren. You can reach her by e-mail at

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