“My Inheritance” a poem about mothers & daughters

My Inheritance

I was bequeathed a satin dress,
An inheritance passed from my mother
And from hers before, another
Lifetime has worn it, the treasured
Hand-sewn seams have measured
The woman inside.
The first time I tried
The fit I was nine (the old
tight-packed box, the wrapping, the fold
of slippery cloth) It first
Fit at seventeen. I was a burst
of full-blown curves and swells
that packaged nicely in the shell
of pink and white and pearl
(so dainty amid the swirl
of attic dust) the rhyme
Steady beating: it’s time, it’s time, it’s time
I’m finished and ready
For the world, yes and oh heady
Here I am
Here I am.

I was bequeathed a satin dress,
an inheritance passed from my mother.
I’d prefer a simpler style, another
Type of sleeve (fitted perhaps, less
poof?) and the bodice, I confess,
Is confining. And really, the dress is too long
(in places the cut is just wrong).
But to replace it would near
Break me.
The cost is just too dear.

~ ?Ruth Huizenga, 1980 ? (yes, that’s me)

I wrote this poem when I was a daughter, and not yet a mother. I was attempting to capture the way my life had been constrained by gender roles. Now that I’m a mother as well as a daughter, I see more nuance and feel more culpability.?I wonder if I’ve passed along similarly confining roles to my own daughters? Is such a thing inevitable between generations?

PS: The photo is of me and my mother, some 40 years after I wrote this poem.


2 responses to ““My Inheritance” a poem about mothers & daughters”

  1. Beth Huizenga Avatar
    Beth Huizenga

    That’s a beautiful, poignant poem, Ruth. Did you show it to many people when you first wrote it, back before blogs and zines and posts made it so easy to share?

    1. No, not many. I did show it to my mother, who was perplexed by it, and then I worried that it would sound angry so I backpedaled. I would end the poem differently today. I am no longer afraid.

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