My son brought me flowers this morning. He is three and knows most of the alphabet song (“m-el-o-p”). He can sing along with me to “Moon River” and will sing “It’s raining it’s pouring…” 10 times in a row in the back of the car. He sings on pitch, which doesn’t surprise me, coming from musician parents who sing to him all day long. I looked at photos of him last night before I fell asleep, photos of our birth-day. Photos of him at 6 months old, still a peanut. Photos of him last year this time, short stubby legs. He was still such a baby at 2. He’s fully a little boy now, the baby is still there in his high pitched voice, especially when he reaches for words and stutters out baby babble. He finds words so interesting: “Deeee-licious”, “maybe”, “just”. I find it fascinating which words and phrases he latches onto. We watch “Toy Story” together and he knows the dialogue and will mirror the punch lines. He’s 3. In June, when I went away for an excruciating 2 months of trauma treatment, he had about 50 words but wasn’t really speaking in sentences. I came home in September to sentences. Now, he’s in paragraphs and malapropistic poetry. He’s funny too. And he knows it. And he’ll be the first to tell you he’s funny. He knows everyone’s favorite color: his is Lellow. He knows to get to Nan you have to fly in an airplane, and really he is more interested in seeing my sister’s Golden Retriever Luna, which he says as ‘looooooooona’, and smiles like he has a crush on her. If he sees a small bug, or a small spider, or a puppy, or a baby, he’ll cock his head and go “Ooooooh…sooooo cute” in this little sweet voice that sounds like he’s mimicking another that he heard somewhere. Trying on sounds for size.
Three years ago he fit in the palm of my hand. He lay on a pillow that I wore around my waist to prop his head up while nursing. I was bleary, milk stains on my t shirts. I still own that $150 pair of Danish slippers I am so grateful I bought as I wore them every single day for the first year of his life. I still own those maternity bras (and yes, I still wear them because they are the most comfortable bras made). Until about a month ago, I still had milk. I’d check from time to time, in awe of my body’s ability to produce milk so long after he stopped nursing. But it’s gone, like that Linea Negra that divided my swollen belly, faded months after he was born.
I am a mother who never thought she’d be a mother. This day would come and go in years past and I’d be one of those women who hated this day, an ever present reminder of my outsider status as non-mother. By choice or by circumstance, I never really knew. I never was in a partnership where I wanted to commit to a child. I was rarely, truth be told, in a partnership. No. Scrap that. I was never in a partnership. On paper it would seem I was, but if I’m honest, I wasn’t (he was and that’s my amends to make). And then it was just a long string of lost years of hopeless loneliness and bad choices until my 40’s were waning and my eggs were drying up. Jamey came along just in time, about a month after I’d said to my friend Kim, “You know, I think I’m ok alone. I’ve got my dog, I’ve got my career, I’ve got friends, I’m sober. I’m going to be ok growing old alone.”
And now I’m in another season of my life. Motherhood. Life on pause, watching a little boy grow up with laughter and wonder in his eyes, knowing that everyone he meets has good in them and is in on the joke. He belongs. To himself and to the world and to watch a being who does not doubt his worthiness or his belonging is a masterclass in love. I would give anything for that confidence. I work hard at feeling worthy, feeling like I belong, but the darkness is always a subterranean rumble. For all of us over three years old, I suspect.
It’s been a rough year and that is a huge understatement. I’m not talking about me personally (although 2020 was pretty terrible after March and at this point, 2021 can bite me) – I’m talking globally. I’ve heard of so many cataclysmic shifts in people around me. Divorces, separations, deaths. I know of people who got sober and went out again. I know of people who somehow got sober in the year of Zoom Recovery. I know of people who lost their jobs, pivoted to a new career, then watched that truck burn in flames and be sitting on a pile of ashes of despair only to reinvent the wheel for a third time. I also know people who threw in the towel.
I for one have done all of that. But my one constant is Huckleberry. My name Mother is my proudest accomplishment and all I had to do was lie on a table and have an embryo placed gently inside my uterus, watch my belly grow, barf a lot, eat too many pineapples and cheeseburgers, get hooked on Coca Cola, have an unexpected C Section and a traumatic breastfeeding beginning, navigate a new marriage with a new baby and not kill each other, and navigate a pandemic with a toddler and postpartum depression that took on a life of its own and changed everything I thought was solid.
But I’m not giving up. I ran 2 marathons. 1 I trained for. The other I ran hungover but finished in decent time. I flew an airplane a few times. I was asked to quit the 4th grade band because I sucked at Clarinet but then spent the summer practicing and came back to place 1st chair (that’s a big thing in elementary school). When someone tells me I can’t, I work harder. I don’t give up on what I believe in. I know I can’t control the outcome, but I can put everything I have into doing the best I can. I am not going anywhere.
I am the Mother of Huckleberry. I know that my son is a gift to the world, to me, to my husband, to all of our families. I used to not celebrate Mother’s Day, except to celebrate my own mother. Today, I spent it just with Huck, playing in a sand pit, on our knees in the living room playing blocks, splashing each other during his bath time, eating chocolate cookies. If I screw everything else up in my life, and that potential is always looming, I will not screw up being the mother to my son. Happy Mother’s Day to me.