I keep this picture on my bedside table. It’s my favorite picture of the kids and I, taken ten years ago, a blurry snapshot from Napa Valley getaway. Real photographers would probably say that it’s not a keeper. The image is overexposed, the baby’s not looking at the camera, and aside from the earrings which I lost shortly thereafter and still miss, I look like a slob.
But I love it, because my daughters and I look like the branches and trunk of a single tree. Despite what may have actually been going on that day – diaper shortage, toddler fits, goldfish crackers ground into my car upholstery – I seem confident and strong, and the girls are grafted right onto me. I prefer to think of the light on the left hand side of the frame as the universe giving us our spotlight dance, saying, “You are blessed with these particular children, who will enrich your life in ways that it will take you the rest of yours to comprehend.” We look, simply put, intertwined.
Ten years later, with my kids growing up and independent in all the right ways, we aren’t so physically attached (my hips couldn’t take it) but we are still connected. If they haven’t checked in with me for a half hour, I find myself wandering through the house looking for them. “Whatcha doing?” I ask, as I peer into their bedrooms or into the family room. It’s the inverse of the the long ago days they used to come find me in the kitchen, touch my knee, and return to their paper doll games, the unseen sonar of familial reassurance. Sometimes it’s hard to remember with any clarity the time of my life when they weren’t flanking me.
Which is why, on this Mother’s Day, I am holding a special thought for the children of moms no longer alive to to be that reassuring home base. And for the mothers whose children have left too soon.
It has been a hard spring, full of loss for people near and dear to me. But whoever you are, there are people all around who have lost a parent, or a child, knocking that precarious balance off center. They’ve who have had to figure out how to put one foot in front of the other every single morning, how to present an appearance of solidity to the world when all they want to do is dissolve into a thousand pieces. They are our neighbors, friends, parents, siblings, husbands, and wives, all of whom have had to un-learn the reflex of “I’ve got to remember to tell my mom the next time I call her” or “wonder what time my daughter will get home?”
It takes fortitude and courage to keep moving after such a loss. There are specific days of the year that it sucks to be the one left behind.
This Sunday, Mother’s Day, would be a good day to take a moment and think about those in your life who have lost a mother or a child. Shine your own spotlight on them, by offering a funny remembrance or a kind word about the one no longer here. Remind them that you also remember.
And the rest of us who still have the branches of our family trees intact? Even in the worst moments of parenting, or being the adult child, try to recall: we are actually the fortunate ones.