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  • Writer's pictureMj Pettengill

Raw, Wild Imperfection

Zelina and Florence, Public Domain
Zelina and Florence, Public Domain

I had many mothers. Abigail Hodgdon, known on this side of the fence as number 188, was taken away in my sixth year. When she carried me in the womb, she was but a child herself. Those who thought of us as cursed were mistaken. No sign of heavy burdens rested upon her delicate frame; no apparent scars marked her fair skin; nor had she any visible flaws. Her beauty lay in raw, wild imperfection—stained fingertips, a scarred heart, and tangled hair—a pearl at rest in the dirt. I knew not the source of her radiance, out of place in the deeps. Perhaps she was above an angel—a bein’ that strayed down from another world—turnin’ shame into dignity, fear into courage, and hate into love.

Within the confines of a shabby yellow dress, reserved for harlots, she was chained to her sins. However, in grace, she rose up against her punishers, keepin’ whole her spirit and pure her heart. Her faith kept her free from those bonds. There was no room for judgment. For I was blessed to be her bastard son, named after her father, who had been fatally shot durin’ the war.

It is said that he was a hero, but more importantly, to Mamma, his death had been a gift to future generations, especially to me. Had it not been for the courage that pulsed within the memory of his shattered heart, ours wouldn’t have beat as strongly as they did. Together, we are Samuel. God heard.

My first mother gave me glowin’ warm mornin’s in a house where others could only see darkness and feel shiverin’ cold. Before Death’s final blow, she was but a flower that never faded, showin’ me the fierceness of a mother’s love.

The other mothers came and went, and should not be forgotten either. When appropriate, we carried each other. We shared that which was good and shouldered the burdens set before us. If need be, when the time was right, we let each other go. Knowin’ why guided us. Knowin’ when, where, and how gave us the strength to do so. Lettin’ go was a curious thing. We didn’t sever our ties completely. We took all that was valued in us and made a place for it. The memories that we tried to forget were never entirely lost nor wasted but protected behind the veil. Folks on the Farm had their own way of holdin’ tight. Samuel Josiah Hodgdon II Carroll County Farm, Ossipee, New Hampshire 1878 Excerpt: Down from the Tree Book Three, Etched in Granite Series Mj Pettengill


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