Mama’s Day

Motherhood is whispering the end of the story to an 8 year old who’s too afraid to keep reading Harry Potter. It’s unclogging a toilet when a kid finally poops after 5 days of not pooping. It’s combing lice.

It’s watching a night vision video monitor intently, trying to see if the baby’s chest is rising and falling but not wanting to go in and wake her up. It’s reading a book you’ve read a thousand times and trying (and failing) to match the enthusiasm and voices you’ve given to its characters the last 999 times.

It’s craving the scent of the napes of their necks and their bodies snuggled in your bed when they really should be in their own. It’s worrying if they’ll remember that thing you said in frustration that you wish you hadn’t. It’s imagining who they’ll be as teens, as adults, without you.

It’s excruciating.

It’s excruciatingly beautiful.

I miss my mom.

I want to be a great mom.

I’m so very grateful to be a mom.

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Broken promise.

I promised myself I wouldn’t mark the day of her passing anymore. That I would celebrate her birthday in absentia. That I would whisper a Happy Mama’s Day to the universe and hope it finds its way to her. That I’d take a couple minutes to prepare thoughtful questions before teacher conferences and always remember to express my gratitude to the people who devote their lives to making my kids wiser, more empathetic some-day adults. That I would sit with her memory on Christmas Eve after everyone else was in bed and quietly count gifts to ensure fairness and count blessings to remind myself of just how freaking lucky I am. 

And I’ve done all of that, except the first. I’m marking the day. 

It’ll be 6 years tomorrow.  6 whole years since we held her hands, kissed her face,  and told her it was okay for her to go when absolutely none of us thought it was okay.

It will never be okay. If she had been 115 years old it would not have been okay.  

So I’m marking the day because I have to. Because ignoring it doesn’t work. I’m marking it because a lot of wonderful and awful things have happened in this past year that she missed.  Because Michigan footfall is fun to watch again. Because her grandkids are big, and fast-witted, and telling stories she’d love to hear, and challenging their mothers in ways we’d love to discuss with our mother. Because a man of limited vocabulary, humanity, foresight, Constitutional knowledge, historical perspective, restraint, respect for others, and glove size (which, in this case, is a euphemism for grasp on reality) wants to be President and I’d love to hear what she’d have to say about it. Because there is a new Harry Potter book and I almost didn’t read it because she would be so mad to have missed it. Because I’ve made some big, hairy decisions about my professional life, and broke my knee in a fluke slippery tomato accident, and am turning 40 next month, and I still need my mommy. 

I’m marking it because it reminds me that all of it–all of this wild and magical and inexplicably terrible and brilliant life is infinitely better when shared with someone you love, who loves you, who loves even your harshest edges.

I’m marking it because I’m lucky to have had her love for almost 34 years.  And because even though it was an awful day, it was a day with her and I didn’t get enough of them. 

Magic.

We started Harry Potter a few weeks ago. The girls are 7 and 5. They want me to read with the lights on because they think the light of the kindle on my face as I read makes the story too scary.

They want to talk about each paragraph. One empathizes and wonders out loud what could have happened to Voldemort that made him so angry and mean. One stops the reading so that she can describe the vision in her head of Hogwarts from the train, with details vibrant and wholly absent from the text. In her mind, there is a gold roof and a battalion of owls are swooping with balloons in their beaks.

We took a break from the action after reading that Dudley was heading to the hospital to have his tail removed, and talked about what we would do if we had tails. Pig tails would be removed. They’re cute but would get in the way when we sit and wear pants. A prehensile monkey tail is a different story. While it poses the same apparel and seat challenges, such a thing would be so useful to climb and swing at the playground. Yes, a monkey tail is a keeper.

Reading with them is magical. Each chapter takes twice as long as it should as a consequence of their commentary. But it is fun. And when it’s time to call it a night, because one or the other is yawning and having trouble fighting the magnetic pull of her eyelids to one another, I feel sad.

Maybe it’s just that I’m tired too. Or it’s that I feel guilty because we don’t get to read like this every night. Some nights I’m not there. Some nights there is just no time. But really it’s more than that. I’m sad because I don’t want it to end.

I know that this time is short-lived. That they won’t always let me read to them. They won’t always share their opinions, and questions, and visions with me. They won’t always think that having a prehensile tail would be cool.

Tonight I’ll be home. Tonight we’ll read some more, talk some more, and when they stop interrupting I’ll know that they are tired and it’s time to call it a night. Time to let them drift off to dreams of owls and powers of transfiguration. And I’ll try very hard not to be sad, and to appreciate that the magic of this time is a factor of its fleeting nature.

And when they begin to refuse my offers to read, and refuse to think that animal appendages are cool, I’ll look back on nights like these and remember their magic.