For My Mother
Sitting at the computer on a Friday morning, putting off the housework again while I zone out on the Sims, I pretend not to hear Morgan when she starts to cry in her swing. After a few minutes I get up and give her her pacifier and then hurry back to designing my second floor. Two minutes later she’s crying again. With an irritated grunt I get up, go to the living room and give her her pacifier again. I have just enough time to sit back down and unpause my game before she starts again. Erg. Okay, well give her a minute maybe the swing will lull her to sleep without my interference if I just let her fuss a little.
It isn’t working.
When the fussing becomes braying I get up. Again with the pacifier. This time I don’t make it to the computer. Annoyed, I resignedly take her out of her swing. What does she want anyway? She’s clean, she’s fed, she dosen’t appear to be trying to poop. All I wanted was a cup of coffee and a cigarette and a few minutes to play my game before I started in on the house. And dammit, she should be okay for awhile, I just put her down twenty minutes ago.
She stops crying as soon as I unlatch the swing. I pick her up expecting to have to calm her when she starts again. But she dosen’t. She nuzzles her head into my shoulder instead, gives a contented little sigh, and then lies there perfectly still. I am instantly ashamed of myself. I pace the living room with her and she just snuggles deeper, happy.
She just wanted to be held. Don’t we all sometimes? She just wanted her mommy.
I sit on the loveseat and fold her into the crook of my arm. Too young to smile yet, she stares at me with wide-eyed solemnity, quiet and at peace. I look back, equally solemn. And then the most amazing thing happens. A thing so small that wallops me with all the force of a fist in the gut, leaving me stricken and humbled. I see myself in her eyes. The window is behind me, and reflected in her eyes I see it, outlining the shape of my head. My face, at which she is gazing so raptly, filling her whole world.
I see how very, very big I am to her. And the wonder and terror and eternal mystery of parenthood, grown dim in the everyday with my son and the fog of experience with my daughter, crashes into me all over again, big as life and fresh as ever. I am her whole world right now. I am all she knows, the source of all nourishment, all comfort. When her father is at work, I am all that stands between her and hunger, cold, dirtiness, injury, loneliness. How could I resent that she wants me? She wants me, because I am mommy. To her I might as well be God. And I can only tremble in awe and terror at the power of motherhood.
All the beauty and love and joy in the world, everything there is that is of the light, lies wrapped up in this tiny girl in my arms. She is a book, perfectly blank, to be begun by me, coauthored by Colin, and completed by her. Her life and her conscience are in our hands. Ours to mould. Or to break if we’re not careful. This gift, this precious burden has been given to us to carry. To guide her, to love her, and for her to teach us how to love as only a child can. I am humbled and unutterably grateful. And I will not drop it.
She’s asleep now. I can hear her breathing soft and even. She stretches a little, roots in her sleep, sighs and settles again. This part of it goes so fast. The need for mothers arms, though it will always be there in a way, grows steadily less as the months and years pass, and someday there will be only the occasional ache in my arms where my babies used to sleep. So I’m going to sit right here and watch her breathe, and marvel at her tiny, perfect ears, and the way her lashes brush softly against her cheek. The housework can wait. The computer can go up in flames. This is everything.