plugging back in, part two: the mama gene
it didn’t take long for me to notice.
even in the whirling dervish early days of this experiment in life after newsprint, even when i was madly tearing open boxes, squatting on the floor and sinking into news clips from a quarter century ago, i found myself bumbling into moments that opened into something that can’t be hurried, can’t be rushed, can’t be made to unfold.
they were the moments when my little one looked up at me, grabbed onto the loophole of time and slowed it all down. allowed the magic to seep in.
oh, there were no cymbal crashes. no serenades in the background. sometimes, just the simple glug of milk galumping out of a jug and into a glass. a glass that had been set out. waiting.
long ago, my little one told me he loved it when he bounded in the door and found the plate and the glass there on the counter. my little one, for a boy who’s wrestled with words in one way or another over the years, is a master of speaking straight from the heart.
what he was saying is what all of us, deep down inside, wish for: mama, give me a sign that you pondered my coming back home. leave me a clue that you waited, that you made a place for me — at the counter, yes, but truly deep in your heart.
that’s why, isn’t it, we swoon when we see chocolate cakes under proud glass domes. why waxpaper-lined tins of chocolate chip cookies can make our knees all buckly. that’s why, when we tiptoe into the pantry, and find a box of our very favorite girl scout thin mints there on the shelf, we break out in a smile.
oh, sure, the sugar and fat have something to do with the grins. but, really, isn’t it all about the molecule that’s never been mapped under a microscope? the one that signals, “someone remembered. someone knows.”
goodness. i don’t mean for this to plumb the depths of after-school snackings. the subject here, despite my dilly-dallying and detour, is a certain brand of magic, the magic of a mama’s slowed-down watch. and how it stirs me back to all my deepest senses.
indeed, the magic i’ve been bumping into of late has come in other sorts of moments, too. ones that had nothing to do with milk pouring from a stout glass bottle.
the moments when instead of shaking the poor child from slumber, barking over my shoulder that he had to hurry because i had a train to catch, i plopped myself on his bed, woke him up with the palm of my hand rubbing circles on his still-soft 10-year-old skin.
the moments have come when i was there to peek over his shoulder as he tried to figure out why one fraction equalled another. when i wasn’t stumbling in from downtown, wasn’t still trying to shake off some nasty thing someone had barked at the office.
instead, these past hours that have turned into days and weeks and more than a month, i have stumbled back into the holy grace of the poetry that’s there, waiting to be scooped up in bare hands or buckets, when you slow it all down, allow the rhythm of your life to unfold in legato, not staccato, time counts.
when you tune your heart’s clock to its deepest truest measure: the one that reaches out and connects with the ones you birthed, you rocked as a baby, the ones whose every plane and bump and crevice you once knew by heart. as you cradled that squirmy 8-pounder, day after day, in the bath or the changing table or propped up on your shoulder, back in the days when you could not chop a potato or bite into an apple without that little someone demanding attentions and intercessions in duplicate and triplicate depending on the day — and the belly aches and the never-ending hungers.
when you put your hand to the knob as you see that child stumbling up the walk, under the weight of books and backpacks that seem too much for a mere lad of one decade.
when you are there in the parking lot, waiting in the old wagon, the one without hubcaps because of the snow tires, the one that sticks out from all the shiny SUVs, when you happen to have thought to throw a granola bar and a banana into the back seat. just in case that someone is hungry after all that tossing of balls and chasing up and down yet another court.
when you find yourself scrubbing the suds off a plate, just across the counter from where the homework has been dumped from the backpack, and you are there to hear the words, “oh, wanna hear a funny thing?” and then you listen to the story that would have gotten lost had you time-crunched a day in the life of a fifth-grader into the two hours between dashing in from the train and tucking the storyteller into his bed.
they are but wisps of moments, these moments i am now catching, as if a butterfly hunter out in the woods with my long-handled net.
they are whispering moments. moments you might not notice, and might not realize you’re missing.
but when you catch them, when you hold them up in the sunlight, when you turn them and spin them, and take them in from all angles, you realize they are the holiest of sparks in the landscape that is your life.
they are the rare few moments here on earth when our presence matters. when we open our eyes and our ears and our hearts, and reach out from inside where all the loneliness lives, and we find ourselves — in quotidian gestures, opening doors, putting out plates, tucking in sheets — doing God’s work, the work of letting the souls in our midst know that they matter, that their load is lifted, is shared, is lightened.
because there’s a mama right there. a mama who loves that child through and through and inside out and upside down. and she’s slowing down, in whatever ways she can, to seal that message to the deepest place in the heart.
his heart. and mine.
isn’t that the essence of why, in the end, we’re alive?
i know full well that not every one of us has birthed the ones we mother. i don’t believe that birthing need be part of that equation, though if you’ve been there when the first squawk came, it’s a rush and a flood that forever propels your heart. so maybe you play out the mama gene with someones other than a child. and maybe you need to play it out in double-time, because you find yourself firmly in the fast lane of life. but however we play it out, isn’t it synonymous with the very definition of loving, love as you would wish to be loved? isn’t that a mama’s — or anyone’s — holy mission here on earth? do you have a story of being loved that way? and if it wasn’t your mama who loved you like that, was there someone else? do you catch yourself in those whispered moments when you find it inside yourself to lift up another someone’s heart as if your lives — your own and that someone else’s — depended on it?
Hearing your perspective on this helps me remember, because sometimes I grow weary of the listening, and I was never very good at the tucking anyway.
But yes, what matters is how we’ve loved. And what we’re doing here, our whole business here on earth, is to learn to love.
I’m so happy that you are enjoying your time. Those cookies, by the way, look quite wonderful.
“…to learn to love…”
if only we all stopped a little more often to realize that it is a lifelong course. and, day by day, we are gifted with the possibility of trying again. and again.
i so love the wisdom that gets put down on this table. sometimes it is simply seeing something you know put down in new ways, in fresh words, and it makes it leap off the page, and stick in our braincells. so we can pick up and take the lesson to where it matters most. “to learn to love…..” my marching orders for the day.
xoxo, dear jcv
I was blessed to be at home during my girl’s early years and count those days as the sweetest moments of my life. Now, with one gone and raising a little one of her own, and the other, now 13, I am running and trying to catch my breath every single day. Working 40+ a week and trying to give her the attention she deserves is a tight walk. I understand the hurry, the “sorry, but I have to go” moments. I understand the falling down in a heap getting home after a 10 hour day feeling … wanting so very badly to be everything for her when I get home.
Just last night, my Joey and I had a girls night together. We rented a movie, popped some popcorn, put on our jammies, curled up in the den, turned out the lights, turned up the surround-sound and had our own movie night at home. While that may not sound like a big deal to some, it was huge to me and I am finding, more and more, that the little things are BIG to her. My time … me to herself.
Bless you, dearest wonderful bam, for the days you toiled and gave to that tall tower downtown. You are most deserving of the quiet mornings when your little guy wakes up to the smell of bacon frying as his alarm clock.
You are a wonder. xox
ahh, darlin. xoxox (that was a starter hug to find you here as i happen to be sitting here…)
it does make me weep how much we want to be there for the little whispered moments, and the contortions into which we twist ourselves to find them, to grab them before they pop and float away. god BLESS the mamas — and the papas, and the aunties and the uncles, and the great soulful grownups who make it their business to tuck children under their wings — who make those moments, who create those sacred spaces (lights, popcorn, surround sound) that allow a child’s soul to unfold, like the petals of a springtime daffodil, and reach out to drink in the essential nectar: knowing there is love all around, knowing there are ears that listen, and hearts that believe, and faith for the long haul.
how did you know i intentionally pop bacon in the oven so that he awakes to the smell, and before the eyes flutter open, he already got the message: someone downstairs is thinking of you…..
we are peas in a pod, here at the table….
Pure poetry … so lovely.
P. S. I could smell that bacon from here … xoxo
I love “allow the rhythm of your life to unfold in legato–not staccato…” Being present, really being there makes it sing legato. The problem is overcoming distractions that would steal the moments, if I let them.
What lovely writing….I’m glad that you are able to slow down a little and enjoy the time. I am missing my “little one” who is away at college. When she is home, I still sneak into her bedroom at night and just watch her sleep and kiss her goodnight. It reminds me of the book, “I’ll Love you Forever”.
Keep writing your poetic musings. I love to read it.
I remember being jealous of my college roommate when her German grandmother would mail to her in a tin individually wrapped “sand” cookies. Called “sand” because they were so fragile that they would collapse into a mound of sugar if they were jostled. Hence, packed with lots of love and puffy paper to make the air or land travel via the postal service from MN to IL. I wished I had someone to make and send those cookies to me.
My middle sister, ten years my elder, would be the one who played with me when I was a child, dressing me up as a princess, anchoring my veil with our mother’s rhinestone bracelet, giving to me of her time. When my marriage hit a rough patch last summer, she was the one to whom I ran. She took me in, knew when to hug, understood when to leave alone; never pressed, but was aways near. My mother didn’t understand well how to love like a mother, but thankfully my sister does.
oh, nanc, the blessing of a sister. i never had one of those, which is why i’ve always been pulled to collect them in the whole-hearted loves of my life. the womenfolk. here at the table, indeed. “how to love like a mother”….oh, that we all find just one such someone. xox
“the womenfolk.” Love that.
It’s a little late, my love reply…I am sitting here this AM, in Illinois, going to the hospital again to love a mother who, by all accounts- can’t.
You know the story…
But what you said there, at the first about mattering, being that special someone to someone…in my selfishness, I still demand it of her- even in her vulnerability, but I can see today for I did pray for this last night, clarity- the answer.
I am capable of loving beyond that, and I needed so much to read this. I am a mother, a good and loving one and that is how I will love. Period. You always chime over the dull thumps, once again- thanks.
bless you my beautiful, loving motherfriend. you are mother to the earth, to the sky, to your children, to children who are not your birth children, to those of us blessed to have bumped into you, and, yes, to your mother. i ache for you for what did not come your way when you wanted it, needed it, ached for it. and bless you for being here, now, at her hospital bedside……i hold you next to my heart. and love knowing you are under the same illinois sky today……xoxo