Dr. Felicia Mitchell is the featured writer in the “Sunday with Friends” event Sunday, Jan. 29 at 3 p.m. at the Washington County Public Library in Abingdon, Virginia. Mitchell shares poems from her new book, “A Mother Speaks, A Daughter Listens: Journeying Together Through Dementia.”
The book profiles her mother’s long life, from early days in Charleston, South Carolina, to her last years in Abingdon, Virginia. The book is both intimate and conversational, reaching out to invite others into a conversation about dementia as well as reaching deep within to process a complex life. While each life story is unique, dementia’s ripple effects on relationships touch us in common ways.
In this collection, the audience is invited to share one mother-daughter dementia journey from the early days of a woman’s life through years in a nursing home and the emotional transformations that continue after a loved one’s death. These poems, some created from the mother’s words, invite us to see Mitchell’s mother, Audrey, as a complete, albeit changed, woman at the close of her life—and also how the depth and complexity of Mitchell’s love for her mother are enriched by understanding what remains, and remains transformative, even as a brain changes.
Mitchell is retired as a Professor Emeritus from her career of teaching English and creative writing at Emory & Henry College, but she continues to write, edit and teach workshops. Her hobbies include hiking and birdwatching, along with knitting.
Along with writing about family, Mitchell writes about the natural world that is her solace and inspiration, with poems anthologized in “Mountains Piled Upon Mountains. Appalachian Nature Writing in the Anthropocene” (edited by Jessica Cory for West Virginia University Press) and “Rewilding: Poems for the Environment” (edited by Crystal S. Gibbons for Flexible Press). Poems are also included in the recently published “The Southern Poetry Anthology, Volume IX: Virginia” (edited by William Wright, J. Brush Fuller, Amy Wright and Jesse Graves for Texas Review Press).
Book sales and signings as well as a reception follow Mitchell’s speaking. The Friends of the Washington County Public Library is a voluntary, non-profit organization whose activities have included raising funds to improve library facilities, taking a firm stand in support of intellectual freedom, sponsoring literary and cultural events and providing financial support for special projects.
For more information on the event, call 276-492-2013.
The Tricks We Play
By Felicia Mitchell
I part my hair in the middle.
Sunday, I put on a pretty dress
and pull my hair into a ponytail.
My mother loves my shoes.
I sip green tea while she smiles.
Monday, I wear my hair
the way I did in high school,
some of it pulled back
into a flower-shaped barrette.
I buy a bottle of Wind Song.
Tuesday, I wear an old ring
my mother gave me, pink coral,
something I picked out and she bought.
Wednesday, I try to fit into a dress
I bought thirty years before,
its embroidered mirrors
reflecting a lifetime of change.
I buy kefir and decide to give up sugar.
I stand in front of hair dye at the drugstore.
Sunflower gold or honey blond?
Or should I buy curlers?
Thursday, I wear Mary Janes again.
My mother loves my shoes.
I love pomegranate seeds and salmon.
Friday is the day I try the perfume.
I spray it all over my body
before I walk into my mother’s arms.
Saturday, I sit dazed on the couch,
wondering what I will try next:
starched petticoats, dark chocolate,
a Brownie uniform from E-bay?
What will help her to remember?
From “A Mother Speaks, A Daughter Listens: Journeying Together Through Dementia”
(Reprinted with permission)