It’s almost Mother’s Day. It will be my second year as one. And, honestly, I don’t remember much about my first Mother’s Day. It’s completely a blur. Did my husband give me something really sweet and thoughtful? Probably. He’s generous and kind like that. Maybe he gave me flowers or a necklace. I just don’t remember. That’s terrible. I know. August was young then. He would have been eleven months old or so. Maybe I don’t remember because at that point I was the mother of a baby. He was a little crawling, babbling machine. And he, of course, wasn’t aware. If he couldn’t celebrate the day with me, I guess it felt weird for my husband to celebrate me. Maybe I downplayed it and that’s why there’s no memory. This year, however, I keep thinking about its arrival. I have this strange longing for August to show up beside my bed on Sunday morning with a handful of flowers he’s picked from the park. I long for coffee to be delivered bedside and for lots of family snuggling to commence.
There’s something about August’s current age that makes me feel more like a mother than I ever felt after giving birth or throughout that whole first year as his milk maker. Don’t get me wrong; I loved his first year. I miss having a sweet baby to rock and kiss and sing to. It’s just that the title of “Mother” eluded me that first year. It felt so far away from who I was, even though I loved and enjoyed being one. Even though I spoke constantly to August about myself in third person: “Mommy,” I’d say, running recklessly through the house, “cannot find her keys!”
Maybe it’s come with time: the belief that I may actually accomplish this greatest of callings. Maybe it’s the fact that the more I hear my little boy call me and only me, Mama: when he’s hurt, when he’s scared, when he’s worried, when he’s hungry, and when he wants to play. I’m his only mother. I used to stare at him in those first weeks, exhausted but steamed up on overflowing amounts of endorphins, and say: “Who are you? Where did you come from?”
But I never really said: “Who am I to you?” I knew I would love him and care for him. I think I just forgot how much he would love me.
Last night at 1:15, I woke to a screaming boy down the hall. He must have had a bad dream, but he was too upset to find words for it. My husband went to his room to hold him and sing a song, but his screams rang down the hall (and I’m sure through my upstairs neighbor’s halls as well): “No! Mama! Maaaaaammmaaaa!”
Chris took it in stride, of course. He knows that sometimes a boy just needs his mama. So I left my cozy bed to hold the child who was so frightened of whatever was in his room that he could not go back through the door. We recently “broke” August of coming into our bed at moments like these, so I had a brilliant idea of lying down beside him on the couch, and sneaking off when he fell asleep. Five hours and a major neck crick later, I regretted the couch decision. But what has stayed with me today is the power of what August needed last night, what it means to have a mama. To have that caregiver who lies down with you after a scary dream. I keep thinking how we never really outgrow the need to be loved that way, to be comforted that way.
I just read a beautiful piece by Meghan O’Rourke in Slate about the loss of her mother two years ago and the process of grief she’s been in since. O’Rourke refers to a time she asked her younger brother what he most remembered about his mom. His reply startled me and then rang true. He said of her, "She was very warm to lie next to, like a blanket."
Of course, I know that feeling. As much as my brothers and I joke about my mom’s impatience with us as sick children (She has a tummy of steel and has only thrown up twice in her life, unlike me, the kid who vomited without ceasing no matter the illness), she always had the most tender way of checking our temperature. Maybe she learned it from her mom. I’ve never asked. But she always pressed her lips to my forehead or her lips to my back. It was always the moment I knew, no matter how many more hours of sore throat, she was warm and she was near by.
Like a blanket, after a nightmare: a snuggle on the couch.