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Tag: mother and child

turning 21: a mother was born

willie baby with kiss

nothing had ever — has ever — so deeply captured my attention. you can see it in the gaze above, the eyes locked between mother and child. you can see it in the parted lips, my lips, can almost hear the gushing in of breath, of pure and utter undiluted amazement.

deep down, i think, i never really believed it would happen. had so little faith in my body — in the flesh and bones that made me who my vessel was — i gasped when they handed me that bundle. i so distinctly remember drinking in his eyes, whispering, “hullo, my sweet, so here i am, and here you are, answer to my deepest prayers, my dreams come true beginning now.” and then, before i could stop myself, i zeroed in on the thighs. the thighs i am blessed to report were duly “pudged,” rolls of flesh and perfect fat, a fat so deliciously dimpled it nearly melted me off the birthing bed.

i’d been afraid i might grow a baby without the requisite fat. in fact, i doubted my capacities as birthing chamber all along. in one long weekend, after an early set of ultrasounds, i convinced myself my baby had no brain. all you could see inside the skull was black space, blank black space. oh my god, i thought, they’ve not yet broken it to me, but i think my baby might be missing his brain. i even called a radiologist friend — on a sunday — to find out if he’d confirm my fear.

he confirmed it not.

and in fact, on the sultry start-of-summer tuesday when at last that babe was born, he was a whopping eight pounds, nine ounces — a good chunk of that birthweight duly tucked in the cranial cavity, where in the years since he’s proven how undeniably that brain was where it needed to be, doing precisely what it was wired to do.

my beautiful beautiful boy turns 21 on sunday, and while my letter to him will be deeply private, the one i’m writing here is the one in which i proclaim to anyone who pulls up a chair how very deeply his birth birthed the depths of me, allowed at last the core of who i dreamed i could be, who i prayed i could be, to begin to take form, to emerge in light and shadow, to rise from the gauzy netherworld, to be defined in sharp outline and tender spots, and to be forming still.

it just might be most every blessed mother’s story: we stumble upon the best that we can be, sometimes, when living, breathing, squawking, ever-hungry babe is cradled in our arms. our trembling arms, to be sure. our arms that grow stronger, surer, over all the sagas and the chapters and the countless hours of two lives entwined.

when i think back over the 21 years that he and i have been essential factors in each other’s equations, i stand in wide-eyed wonder. i bow down low in deepest gratitude. i wince at my mistakes, moments i’d give anything to do over. and i marvel at the times when i stepped to the edge of the precipice, mustered all my courage, and leapt — that eternal life-saving instinct nestled deep in every mother’s heart, the one that propels us to put form to whatever is the holy vow we take when we’re first told that life stirs within.

it’s unbreakable, the mother bond. it defines our days, puts order to our must-get-done list, sets us off to the ends of the earth, if need be, in search of the essential whatchamahoojie — be that the medical specialist who can peer inside a child’s shattered bone or merely the USB cable that’s gone missing from his laptop at the very hour the paper must be printed and turned in for a full semester’s credit.

and it keeps us awake, long night after long night.

we learn, once motherhood comes upon us, just how long we can go without so much as a spoonful of cereal (it took me a couple weeks to figure out how to inhale breakfast with a baby wailing in the infant seat), and how many consecutive nights we can curl up on the bathroom floor cradling a fevered child or one who’s upchucking till the wee wee hours.

when necessary, we discover we can make the scariest of phone calls, can dial up the mother of the slumber-party bully, can look the teacher in the eye and say, i’m sorry, i don’t think you understand my kid. we can even will our knees not to buckle when the ER doctors start tossing around words like “airlift” and “cervical fracture,” and “severed spinal cord.” we can make promises to God — ones we swear we’ll keep — when, for longer pauses than we ever thought we could endure, we’re begging to be spared a kid who can’t flinch a muscle from his neck down to his fingers and his toes.

in rare sweet moments, we find out how it feels to catch the wind and soar. we turn and see the kid we love dashing down the block to hand a crunched-up dollar bill to the homeless guy he knows by name. we nearly fall in the river as the kid who couldn’t catch a fly ball now rows mightily across the finish line. we read the words his college professors send to us in emails that knock us off our chairs, and leave one of us brushing away the streams of tears.

we hope, we dream, we pray. we reach down deep, deeper than we ever reached before. we listen till the birds of dawn begin to sing, if that’s what it takes some long dark hollow nights.

we find our voice along the years. we exercise our heart. we wrack our brains. we love, and love some more.

and suddenly 21 years have happened. countless picture frames loop before our eyes. words and stories bubble up and fill page upon page. our hearts are 21 times the size they used to be — at least.

we have paid most exquisite attention, to each and every breath and utterance all along the way. we’ve driven ourselves nearly mad. we’ve cared beyond reason. in fact, there’s little room for the rational when it comes to this particular brand of love story.

we were handed a treasure. we owe it to the treasure. we owe it to the bequeathers of the treasure.

i, for certain, was handed the treasure of my life. june 22, 1993. the day the best of me was born.

a work very much in progress. the best work in all my oeuvre.

i love you, sweet will, with all my heart and all my soul and everything that dwells between.

chair people, thanks for indulging me in this morning’s labor of truest deepest love. i found the photo above — my sweet boy’s forehead stamped with a “stork kiss” from my beloved obstetrician, who made it a habit of smearing on bright red lipstick to mark her babies shortly after birth — while working on a little picture project. i’ve been compiling a little something for my sweet boy’s birthday and this frame floated to the top.

feel free to tell what birthed the best of you along the way….

never enough will


all i want for christmas…

all i want for christmas 09all i want for christmas 11

every year on christmas morn, shortly after the rustle under the tree, not long after the little one is certain he’s heard the clomp of reindeer hooves on the roof, there is a thud just over the cookstove, from the bedroom above. it’s followed by the pit-a-pat of little feets rushing to shake the man-child from slumber.

that’s the moment i enter the equation. wait, wait, wait, i holler. let me get a picture.

and so, the annual up-the-gullet-of-the-staircase, bleary-eyed christmas morning pose. boys in sleeping garb, gaining inches by the year.

and this christmas, more than in a very very long time, it’s the moment i am waiting to frame.

it’s all i want for christmas: two boys + one papa + one old house, steamed up from a christmas dawn’s cookery = contentment of the purring kind.

it’s simple, but not, all at once.

we’ve not all been together for christmas for two long years. we’ve not all been together — not in any which way, not the four of us — since way back in august. and much has unfolded, and much has settled deep into my soul. so much so that i’ve emerged with one humble christmas-y wish: dear God, let us all be gathered in one cozy room. that’s all, God.

remember — oh, do i —  how infuriating it used to be, when you’d ask your mama what she wanted for christmas (and you hoped for once she’d drop a fat hint, so you could scurry the department store aisles, beelining for some well-scripted bauble) but all she’d reply was what at the time sounded lamer than lame: oh, honey, all i want is health and well-being for all of us. and you stood there saggy-faced, as visions of sugarplums whirled down your drain?

well, it appears i’ve turned into a variant of that very mama: all i want — beginning to end — is the sound of three voices i love bubbling up and around the red cozy room where logs will sizzle and windows will steam. where i’ll huddle under my buffalo-check blanket, breathe deep, and sink into the holy whirl of immersion. of being no farther from my faraway boy than a hand reached ‘cross the couch. where no crackling phone line will blur the vowels and the consonants, static-charged syllables from half across the globe. where one more year’s memories will be laid deep down in the crevices of my heart, that vessel that allows for easy access come the cold february dawn when the ones i love won’t be within reach, when their hilarity won’t be animating my stirring of oatmeal, when i’d otherwise feel hollow through and through.

it’s a simple prayer, an unadorned wish. it’s love whittled down to its essence: just let us share the gift of an hour, a morning, an unbroken day. let us breathe the same oxygen, let us catch the twinkle in each other’s eye. and not give a damn if any one of the bunch catches their ol’ mama swiping away at a tear, a tear of Godly perfection.

were we not born to work toward, to revel in just that very fine brand of love, one cultivated through long hours of heartache and worry and triumph and faith? one that only gets stronger and harder to shatter, no matter the hurdles, the obstacles, the twists and the turns. one that sustains us till ever and ever. one that’s our life’s holiest treasure.

it’s the spark of Divine, fanned into infinite flame. it’s year after year. it’s mother and child, and holy reunion.

and it’s all i want this most blessed christmas.

may each and every one of your christmas wishes come true. my wish for you is that your quietest unspoken wish is the one you hold in the palm of your hand, and nestle to the core of your heart. how will you spend this most blessed day?

about the frames on high: the one on the left is 2009, when one sweet boy was eight and the other 16. on the right it’s 2011, the first christmas home from college for the taller of the two, and the little one thrilled beyond thrilled to have his best brother — his only brother — right back where he belonged, at the room in the bend in the stairs….

it’s all about the ing

birds nest

maybe a proclamation would be the thing. although that was done already. maybe just some common-sense yak, yak, yakking would do the trick.

it’s about a little problem i have with what’s coming sunday. far as i can tell there’s a missing syllable.

i would like to make the day not plain old mother’s day, a noun. which by my take is exclusive, too exclusive.

i would like to add an ing. and make it mothering day, a verb. a day for all who mother.

not just those who know what it is to push the burning bulge as if your life depended on it. which, of course, it did, as well as that of another one or two or three or, heaven help you, more heart-pounding little lives, depending on your wide-eyed obstetric state.

and not just those who’ve signed their name on someone’s dotted line. or stepped in without official papers.

all of that is fine. insanely, amazingly, awesomely, only-MotherGod-could-have-invented-this, so very fine.

but there is more—there are so, so many more.

yes, every last someone who has stroked a brow, wiped a tear, dabbed chocolate off a little cheek, fluffed a pillow, tucked in the covers, whispered bedtime prayers, set an extra place at the table, stretched a meatloaf, picked the peas out of the pasta salad, kissed a bloody knee, kept a retching belly from falling in the toilet bowl.

yes, every pair of arms that’s lifted a dead-weight child in the pool, played red rover till the cows came home, bent half-over to push a kid on training wheels around and round the block, turned the pages of good night moon so many times you find yourself chanting good night to the mittens when no one’s in the room.

you get the point.

i have for years squirmed and wriggled when it comes to setting aside a sunday, ordering up loaves and loaves of toast that will be cut in triangles, smeared with jam and honey and cinnamon with sugar, and delivered, teetering, on trays that stand a mighty chance of toppling off of bedsheet-shrouded knees.

not that i have anything against newspapers in bed, or violets clutched in sweaty little fists.

it’s just, gosh darn it, my world, for one, is highly populated with extraordinary motherers who have neither birthed, nor adopted, children of their own. and plenty who simply could not deliver, ever—they are men, for heaven’s sake.

i am all for honoring the art of mothering. and i would make a motion to amend the noun and bow down before the brand-new ending.

the ing, i argue, is where the emphasis should be. it’s a verb, active, pulsing, life-propelling verb.

back long ago, when julia ward howe, the activist who gave us “the battle hymn of the republic,” her anthem against slavery in 1862, back when she unfurled her original mother’s day proclamation it was all about women rising up and demanding end to war.

that i could get in a froth about.

especially the way she put it:

“our husbands shall not come to us reeking of carnage for caresses and applause. our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn all that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience. we women of one country will be too tender to those of another country to allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs.”

so wrote julia in 1870.

but, somewhere, the hallmarks of the world got in the way. the second sunday in may became less about the women of the world exerting their mother-ness on the global family, and more about fluffy slippers, hand-crayoned cards, and leaving whole chunks of the population to ache because, by accident of biology, they’ve not been able to get egg plus sperm to equal zygote, their unborn children never got to take a single breath, they’ve buried a child born from their own womb, laid a lifeless little body to rest, far, far too soon.

aches, all, that never go away. all aches the second sunday in may only serves to jab and pierce so stingingly i know women who barely make it through the day.

or they might be women who exercised their right to choose not to bring another soul into this blessed broken world. or men whose tender caring touch goes uncelebrated, lost in all the hubbub of the third sunday of june when to be a grill meister seems the height of all that matters.

they all mother, if not define themselves as mothers per se. if not their own children, then other people’s children. or the child who dwells in every single someone. have you not been deeply mothered by a friend?

you needn’t be with child, nor even be a woman, to mother, is my point.

i don’t mean to be a grouch. and i hate to throw cold water on all the blessed moments the day will surely bring.

i just feel intent on proclaiming one not-so-little matter: may it be mothering, the art of tender caring, coaxing life, leaving mercy in your wake, the art that knows no gender bounds, no census-taker’s definition, the art the world needs in mighty thronging masses, may it be mothering, and not just mothers, for whom we stand and shout, God bless you each and every motherer.

may the whole world reach out and wrap you in its blessed holy bosom. the very one that you so freely share, the very one in which we bury our tears, clutch our fears, and find the very milk of heaven here on earth. amen.

i’m done proclaiming. your turn to toss it back.

and p.s. a most blessed birthday to susan, who achingly, bravely walks through her first birthday without her mother. xoxox

and p.p.s. the nest above? one i came upon while tromping through a field in winter, during the winter of my aching couldn’t-have-a-baby years. it was lying in a brambles, right before my eyes, as if the universe wanted to remind me: i might be some day someone’s nest. the broken eggs, i collected too. off the ground, crushed. empty. thus, the nest, the eggs above, they tell the whispered story of our motherness. sometimes broken, crushed. but sometimes possibility, hiding in a thorny bush. it belongs to all who mother. with love and honor for all you do to make this world a little softer, a whole lot less thorny. xoxox