Jack is about two has the blue eyes of that woman from Afghanistan on the cover of that National Geographic. His cheeks are round and his coarse blonde hair starts in a swirl from the top of his head. Today, as I was opening the gate of my daughter's Montessori school to leave, Jack looked up at me in utter desperation. He was crying because his mom was loading car seats into a school bus to take the kids on a field trip, and he just plain wanted her. He was having a tough morning. He tried to make a run for it, but I picked him up instead. He was really crying, mind you, to where he was doing that gaspy, coughing cry. He instantly molded his little body to mine; legs wrapped tight, chubby arms around the neck, little head on my shoulder.

Now Jack, for some reason, maybe because he's so precocious and talkative, maybe because of that dirty blond hair, maybe the way his solid little body felt against mine took me to a place that seems an eternity away.

A mother can tell she is holding her own baby, even if she were blind, just by the shape and the weight of him. My son, now ten, angsty, lanky and observant, was once very much like Jack. Just for a while, maybe fifteen minutes or so, Jack and I held on for dear life; a mother and a son who didn't really belong together, except for just those few moments.

Even though Jack's mom was effusively thankful upon her return, I was near speechless as I handed him back to his mother. He smiled sheepishly over his mother's shoulder as I waved goodbye and he opened and closed his chubby fist in return.

I don't often have the good fortune to persuade my son, all legs and arms and angles now to cram himself on my lap and snuggle these days, but when I told him our story, he acquiesced.

Thanks, Jack. I think you helped me more than I helped you.