Daughters of the Dirt / Sarah Higdon

The Yell
by Bernadette Noll

I roar at him in the dog voice. It comes from deep within; from way down low in the belly as if coming from another being, another species even. Immediately I am sorry and I look down at his little face, innocent in so many ways but now in one less. I hold him and tell him Iím sorry and I want to somehow erase in our collective memories that bellowing voice.

I tell myself I will not do it again which is all I can do at this point; that and call my mom. My mom who of course has surely howled a time or two in the raising of her own nine children, but not with that voice I hear in my own head. She weeps a little, and laughs, too, when I tell her -- not at my fall from motherly grace, which she knows is an impossible stance to ever maintain, but at the memory of her own time. Four kids under five and she shrieked so hard it was a physical act; her throat hurt and her head and her heart and all she could do when it was over was knock on the neighborís door. She told the neighbor of her distress and asked to borrow a dollar. The women then, including on that block where I grew up, they were all home with little kids and no cars and they borrowed things: quarters, dollars, ears and cups of sugar, too. And they were all quick to lend. So she borrowed the dollar and she loaded the kids in the stroller, a big old-fashioned pram kind of thing -- old enough to be called a perambulator -- and she walked downtown to buy ice cream with her borrowed money. The walk cooled her heels and the ice cream soothed her heart and the treat to the kids was her mea culpa and she promised to never yell like that again. She laughs a little when she says never because maybe never is a bit of a stretch when raising nine kids but almost never is the truth.

A friend had a day like I had, filled with bawling and gut-wrenching fits of hysteria by both mother and children and she called her own mom in the midst of it all. "IíM HORRIBLE!!!" she cried and her mom soothed her self-condemnation and she calmed her long distance with permission to forgive herself. The mom asked if she ever remembered being yelled at like that and the friend said no, definitely not like that and the mom laughed and told her for sure it happened but kids donít hold onto it like the grown-ups do. They forgive and, when itís a rare occurrence, then they truly forget. At least thatís what we hope.

All the years of mothering, my momís nightly prayer consisted of a promise tomorrow to try to do the best she could. And to remember that the best we can do, can sometimes change from minute to minute.
Bernadette Noll is an Austin writer, mama and regular contributor to AustinMama.com.