Rush Baby
creative nonfiction by Anna Rollins

As a girl, my mother listened to Rush Limbaugh on the portable in the garden. It was the Clinton era. “Day 147 in captivity,” he declared as she waved honeybees away from her wrists, smoothing her gloves to pull weeds from the dirt.
Rush was everywhere. His voice in the kitchen, the dining room, the main bedroom. Omnipresent, like God. 
I remember him in the morning, in a particular kind of light, new without shadow and the glisten of dewy grass. The smell of Lysol, my mother on her hands and knees keeping our home spotless and pure to present to my father each evening.
I imagined I would grow up to be my mother. My pretty young mother, long legs, wavy hair, teatime at three, with a perfect daughter – just like myself. 


She preferred that my father drive. He was better at it. He’d told me so on rides to the dairy bar, after church as all the suits joked about women drivers

“Oh, Bob,” my mother said as she punched his arm, handing him the keys. 

And when she was alone – just she and I – she trembled behind the wheel. 

One morning we visited a bookstore together downtown. She sat behind the wheel, and though there was not heavy traffic, there were cars. Her hands shook as we scoured the streets for parking.

“I just hate this traffic,” my mother said as she drove past an open space.

“There really aren’t that many cars,” I said. 

“I can’t do this. I can’t keep doing this,” she said. “I’m not cut out for this. But no. I’ll park. I will.”


The music minister called to speak to my mother. She rested the receiver against her ear.

“I’m unavailable,” she said several times. And finally, she clarified: “I’m not available – for you.” 

“What did he want?” I asked. 

“The choir room flooded – the sheet music, hymnals, all drenched. He needed help cleaning up. He said he was calling up all the stay-at-home moms.”

“Are you going?”

“Absolutely not. My time is not his. I am not a stay-at-home mom for him.” 

Then she turned on the radio. 


The day of Rush’s death, there was an ice storm. It appeared, at first, like rain. I listened to the sound of branches cracking and crashing, like all the trees in the neighborhood had enlisted for war. 

In the kitchen, the tea kettle whistled. My mother stood fixed in front of the box television set. 

I turned the heat to low, filling up two cups, dropping in sachets of Darjeeling. Rush’s face flashed on the screen, in memoriam.  

“He died, Anna,” my mother said, cheeks wet with tears.

“I thought he was already dead.”

She rolled her eyes. “He died – and no one cares. Except Fox. Everyone else is ignoring it.” 

“Maybe that’s because he wasn’t that important.”

“He was a visionary. He changed everything.” 

She looked out the window to a line of snowy firs, a red cardinal, a drooping power line. “If anything were to happen to you, your father, I’d hang ...” her voice trailed off. 

“What?” I asked. But I knew how the sentence ended. I determined I would never become her. 

“Oh, nothing,” she said. “I have those chocolates you like hidden away. Would you like one?”


I am a mother now. When I visit my own mother, my baby naps in her back bedroom. There, the old radio, the chair where she rocked me years ago. 

And I rock my baby, his head to my chest as I breathe a song into his ear: hush little baby, don’t say a word. His eyes grow heavy. He leans into the heat of me. That unity that only exists between mother and child. 


As a girl, I did not appreciate the garden my mother kept. I believed that our home was surrounded by pruned roses and flowering hydrangea because of the goodness of nature. 

I stroked lamb’s ear against my palms, sniffed pots of mint. I rubbed pineapple sage between pointer finger and thumb, using its oils as perfume, the handiwork of God blooming through the sweat of my mother’s brow. 

I see her still in the garden. Gloved, a handkerchief in her hair, a farmer’s tan – but I remember her as ornament. I could not conceive that she was building something. 

Anna Rollins was born in Cross Lanes, West Virginia, and currently directs the Writing Center at Marshall University. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Slate, Salon, and Electric Literature, among other outlets. Her poetry has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She’s on Twitter @annajrollins