he gave us a year: this mama will never forget
the first inkling came a year ago december. it was a bitter cold sunday, and the voice on the line was one that had been making my heart skip since the first time i heard it. the words that followed were these: “mommo, i’ve been thinking. i want to do something meaningful in the year between college and law school, and i can’t think of anything more meaningful than being there for tedd. i think i’ll come home for a year.”
such is the sound of wishes come true. of prayer you hadn’t even put to words, come tumbling true. a mama’s wildest hope.
so, back on a sultry june afternoon, the old black sedan pulled down the alley. out spilled a boy and a thousand some boxes. a childhood bedroom was duly re-ordered. carpet was ditched; floorboards, exposed. old books, the books of a boyhood, were pulled and tossed in a box. college tomes took their place. jobs were procured, the ones that would keep him busy by day. by night, he made his place at the side of the much younger brother, the brother just finding his way into high school, a high school with corridors known to be steep.
for one whole year, a year now gliding toward its close, big brother and little have entwined their hearts a little bit closer. there’ve been late-night runs for grilled cheese. and sartorial counsel unfurled at the bathroom door. there’ve been soccer goals saved in front of the cheering — and very proud — older brother. and shoulder-to-shoulder talks on the couch, in the car, on the all-night airplane ride.
it was into his big brother’s arms that the little one fell the morning our old cat died. the two of them crying, together. one of them wailing, “he was our third brother.” both of them wholly understanding the depth of that truth.
he was here for his brother, yes, but he was here, too, for the whole of us — night after night, as we sat, held hands, and whispered a prayer before picking up forks. not one single dinner for four did i ever take for granted. each one felt sacred. felt numbered.
he was here in this unforgettable year, this year of loss as much as gain. he was here the day we got word that his grandpa had died; that very night, he stood by the side of his papa, both wrapped in their prayer shawls, at synagogue, on the eve of the most solemn day of atonement. he was there, to hold his father’s elbow during the hebrew prayer of mourning. he was there to notice the tear that spilled from his father’s eye. i was too. i saw and felt with my whole soul the presence of father and son standing shoulder-to-shoulder, prayer shawl-to-prayer shawl, in the hour of that father’s deepest grief.
he was here, too, when friend after friend said goodbye before dying, in this year of hard loss. he was here to wrap his arm, and his laughter, around the grieving widower who has spent most every weekend with all of us, sopping up the pieces of his deeply shattered heart.
he was here for me, his old mama. the one who will never tire of long talks at the side of his bed, or chopping in sync at the kitchen counter. i never even minded the piles of laundry, knowing with each pair of boxers i folded that it was a task that wouldn’t last. i considered it something akin to charming to iron old shirts, to track down orphaned socks.
the what’s-next isn’t quite worked out. but the calls are out. the interviews, scheduled. a move will be in the mix. i know that. i’ve always known that.
which is what made this year the most priceless gift i could have imagined. a mother’s gift beyond measure.
it was all a blessing. all wholly unexpected. all counter to cultural norms that these days send kids sailing post college. he came home. he didn’t mind — not so much anyway — the questions from neighbors, the ones who might have looked askance at a kid whose only post-college option appeared to be a return to the roost. we knew otherwise. we knew the whole time.
he’d come home for one reason only: love.
he’d come home for the rare and breathtaking gift of stitching together two hearts. hearts born eight years apart. hearts whose plots on the lifeline had necessarily thrown them into parallel orbits — when one was learning to drive, the other was learning to read. when one was finding his way through a college quad, the other was starting out middle school. but this year — one starting high school, one a man of the world and not too old to remember well the poignant trials of this particular high school — there was much deepening to be done. they could laugh at each other’s jokes. play each other’s silly screen games. bolster each other’s hearts when either one was pummeled.
what they grew, over the shifting of seasons, over late nights and not-so-early mornings, was a brotherly love to last a lifetime.
i often flash forward in my mind’s eye, imagine them calling each other in the long years ahead. i imagine their faces, lined with deepening grooves, the ones that come from living. i imagine their manly voices, calling long-distance — just to laugh, simply to celebrate, to be the front line in each other’s rescue squad.
i once feared that the older one — long the only one — would be all alone after we’d gone. i know now, i pray now, that they’ll long have each other’s company — shared stories, shared love, unbreakable bond.
and so, on the brink of that second sunday in may that honors motherhood, i find myself sated. i need no toast points ferried to bed. no violets clumped in a vase. i don’t even need a hand-drawn card. i’ve lived and breathed a year i never expected. in the short story of my life there will always be this one radiant whirl around the sun.
and that’s more than i’d ever have dreamed when someone once showed me the flickering spot on the ultrasound, the one they said was his heart, very much alive. the one that ever since has quickened the pulse of my own. my very own metronome, come home, all in the name of pure love.
happy blessed day of mothering, to all who mother in the infinite ways of that certain brand of loving. to my own mama, and the mother of my heart, the one i was gifted through marriage. may your days be filled with the knowing that the children you birthed simply adore you. and may the memory of the mamas who birthed you, and loved you, fill your hearts on this day of honoring a mama’s rare love.
what one gift do you wish for, what one unimaginable gift? or have you found it already?
Breathtaking in its beauty–brought me to tears, smiles, and warmed my heart. Thank you, thank you and the sweetest Mother’s Day to you!
xoxox, thank YOU for being right here at the table. blessed mama day to you, too!
There are very few people that I say this to:
I love it when you make me cry.
With my husband and our daughter at The Lake today on his big “Zero” birthday, and just before she moves from Chicago to Austin.
You are so lucky to still have both your mothers,
you sweet angel! happy ZERO to your sweet man. xoxox
Incredible Barbara! You always make me cry. To read your posts is a great honor, and such a soulful reminder of what really matters.
Stephanie Rogers firstname.lastname@example.org Hipchick Music http://www.hipchick.com
thanks, sweet steph. i wanted to try to put this year into words. some day those boys will read….and know how much their mama loved them….
Once again you take my breath away! Aah
thank YOU, dear laura……we’re all of one big shared heart.
A radiant whirl around the sun that was so meant to be!! Perfection!!! So thankful Will was home this year!! So so special !! xoxo
Sent from my iPhone
i do believe it all unfolded according to some heavenly plan. hard and beautiful as it’s all been. beautiful sorrow, tristesse, is the italian word. and it’s been so much more than that, too. radiant, indeed. xoxox
So lovely to have them home. So hard to let them go. Perfect Mother’s Day message.
amen, dear mary, amen…..
Beautiful, my friend. How lucky you are and blessed enough to know it. In my best attempt at being BAM, this essay is “heart-filled.” Xxoo
bless you, my friend who taught me volumes about love. xoxox
“he’d come home for one reason only: love.”
(*Happy sigh*) Love is the BEST and most beautiful reason to come home for a year, and I am delighted for all of you that he did!
Your dear boys are separated by the same number of years as our dear daughters. When it comes to strong, loving, deep, abiding sibling bonds, there seems to be something extra-special, something magical, about the number eight…
Happiest of Mother’s Days to you, dear friend! Thank you for sharing this wonderful year of love with us. Blessings~ xoxo
dear amy, i do believe you’ve hit the 8 on the target. there must be something particularly enchanting about that span in human development. i can’t count how many people — when i was pregnant or about to give birth eight years later — told me of an extraordinary closeness they had with a sibling eight years older or younger. you’re making me think hard about that. all i know is it’s been lovely in this house. especially for me, getting one last whirl at savoring what i thought i’d never live again…….
love you, dear amy, friend across miles, kindred of spirit in all the tenderest ways…….
Love you right back, precious soul… xoxox
Oh …. my. I have loved so much of what you have written, but this one will be right up there next to the one that drew me to you in the first place. Such a year it has been for all of you, so very much sorrow, but how wonderful that you have had this extra anchor. I could just see him standing “prayer shawl to prayer shawl” with Blair. You have an extraordinary family, for you have taught them to love big and open, just as your heart does. You, dear bam, have been one of my “unimaginable gifts.” ❤
oh my beautiful nancy. i will never forget what drew us together, and i thank the stars that words were the thing that made us find each other. for you the gettysburg essay is in my next little book. i can’t read it and not picture us taking our walk along the river. which is off topic to here, but just a touchpoint in our connectedness. i send love to you, always. thank you for being always “here,” which is wherever i need strong yet tender you to lean on….xoxoxo through this year, most certainly…..xoxo
What a beautiful expression of what counts, what matters, what we offer and can graciously accept – all treasured and cherished. Says it all for Mother’s Day – Happy Day BAM. xo,
thank you, sweetheart. thank you…xoxox
Thanks for this one!! Hits home as I’ve got one preparing for college and one preparing for high school. I have officially become that old mom who says, “It goes by so fast!” to the young moms. Bless our kids for knowing when to go, and when to stay.
“bless our kids for knowing when to go, and when to stay…”
dear JCV, i cannot tell you what joy it brings me to find you here. i almost need to rub my eyes to make sure i’m seeing correctly when i read your sentence above, about one preparing for college, one for high school…..weren’t they just babies when i met you? and, oops, there i go declaring myself as one of the IGBSF ol’ mamas!!!
Barbie, you make me cry, you make me smile, you make me grateful for being your friend. How lucky your three men are to have you. You are correct, there is a word, and it describes you as well-LOVE. Happy Mom’s Day to your family.
my beautiful maureen, thank YOU for teaching me so very much about love, about ebullient hearts, about stretching beyond the bounds to reap all the joy that life can possibly offer. xoxoxo
lovely post. thanks for sharing this sweet story.
thank you, for wandering by.
I am watching a similar “love story” happening between my two girls, 6 years apart. As one is about to enter middle school, big sister (almost a Junior in HS) is finding ways to connect and reconnect with her. It is a gift to them both, for sure, but the younger is over the moon with this focused attention. I loved this post so very much. And I know you must be so happy and proud of your boys.
i love that brand of “over-the-moon” that the little ones seem to have been born with, in regard to their “bigs.” my little one all but swoons when his big brother drapes his arm around his shoulders…..
thank you so much for bringing YOUR love story to the table. we love them all…..
I’m good. My baby baby finished college yesterday, proud of himself– he graduated despite the real call of The Road as a talented and sought after musician. My older baby had a rough year. She licked some wounds, dealt with some health issues and we were roommates. She’s chomping at the bit to get to her next stop, out of state school where she will embark on a journey that will lead her to a service profession. I don’t hate any part of that sentence. My mom died when I was her age. My being able to give her what some thought was nuts….a place to regroup, think, get healthy, journal and heal from a truly soul sucking first job was a privilege.
isn’t that what the mothernest is all about? that place to, as you say, “regroup, think, get healthy..and heal”? bless you for listening to your own heart, and blocking out what anyone else had to say on the matter. xoxox
What a beautiful Mother’s Day read. Thank you for sharing 🙂 Linda
thank you, and happy mama day!
Now this… THIS is a “gap year”! One that reinforces that never there will be a gap of love between them.
what a glorious way to put it, dear karen! and you were there at the long ago beginning, as i sat and stared at the blinking heart of the ultrasound that was the beginning of that boy…..
he’d come home for one reason only: love.
at the center of all that you scrawl, talk, teach, stir, and tend is for one reason only: love. what lucky boys with you as their mama. and hey, they’re listening… xxoo
love YOU, laura h. till the end of time and beyond. xoxoxo
This is so beautiful. How lucky they are to have each other & how lucky a mama are you. xo
thank you, dear jean……as is your sweet boy so so blessed to have YOU! xoxox
Hey you – I knew I couldn’t read this on the actual Mother’s Day. I’d be sobbing way too much. So, I waited until now…big fat deal – I still sobbed!
We love those boys of yours (and seeing them around has been cute!).
xo to one very fortunate family.
oh, God bless you, sweet angel. this ol’ block is getting quieter and quieter by the hour. we turn to you to make some noise. xoxoxox
The first thing I wanted to do when I got out of college was come home, too! But for selfish reasons–I felt too burnt out and out of touch with the world that I craved the safety and love of my family. I’m so happy that you got to spend time with both of your sons!! I might be able to spend this summer with my little brother on the farm, and I am so, so excited–it’s been such a long time since we’ve gotten to work on the farm together all summer, and I miss it so much! Thank you for this lovely post 🙂
dear ZB, i love that you have your farm and your family to come home to. if only we had such a farm…..i do hope you get to spend the summer with your little brother. and that i get to see you at the farmer’s market. xoxox
I’d love to see you at the farmers’ market and you and your family are so, so welcome to come visit the farm anytime you’d like!! 🙂