My name is Tracy Miller. I founded Arlene Miller Creative Writing in memory of my mother Arlene Miller (August 24, 1924-May 10, 2005) to recognize & support all forms of creative expression.
Forever grateful for my mother by Tracy Diane Miller
In 1974, I was 9 years old and my mother was 50 years old. I remember the kids in our elementary school (whose parents were in their 20s) used to say “Your mother is older than my grandmother. She’s probably going to die soon.” I spent many sleepless nights thinking that my mother was going to die when I was a kid. I was terrified that we were going to lose our mother as children and that we were going to end up in foster care. Of course, it also didn’t help that I had a morbid obsession about death. I remember at the same time reading a book in the library about writing a will because I wanted to make my desires at my death legally enforceable. Because apparently, I believed that I needed to spell out who would get my books when I died at 9.
I know that I was a weird, deep thinking child in my mother’s eyes. I’m sure that she was happy to channel my morbid obsessions into my poetic preoccupations. And for the record, my 50 year old mother at the time looked like she was in her 30s. And because we never had a car growing up, my mother walked more and used more energy running after twins than people half her age.
Until she got sick in January, 2004 at 79 years old, I never saw a prescription bottle in her name. She never talked about being sick. I’m sure that she had days when she didn’t feel well, but she used to say “I can’t afford to be sick. There’s no one to take care of you.” She also said “My girls keep me young.”
Teenagers, especially teenage girls so I hear, seem to be at odds with their mothers. We never experienced that. The most conflict (if you could call it that) was my mother insisting that I wear a sweater while I insisted that I wasn’t cold. “It’s better to have than not to have” she would say. Today, I always carry an extra sweater with me in case I go into an air conditioned store. I’m always prepared and I’m never cold.
When I was 5 years old, I decided that I was never getting married nor having children. There was never any moment in my life when I could ever envision being a parent. I’ve always felt that my lack of maternal desire was partly because I was astute to recognize my own shortcomings at a very early age and partly because I saw all that my mother had to deal with raising her children alone after we lost our father when we were so young. I can’t imagine how she raised her children with limited finances and limited help from anyone. Yet, she wasn’t bitter about her circumstances. Despite all that I have been fortunate to accomplish in my life educationally and creatively, I will never achieve what she did. To raise children in the Philadelphia inner city who defied societal stereotypes: Arlene Miller was the definition of amazing.
I’m now 51 years old. Mentally, I feel old; yet physically, I feel better than I did when I was in my 20s.
I wish that my mother had lived to see me turn 40, 50 and 51. I wish that I could say to her, “I understand” because I now I know that I do.
There is a segment in the movie “Gone With The Wind” that cautions us not to squander time. And when time escapes, you can never get it back. Memories become your only solace.