Grace Notes: Hope and white camellia
May 12, 2012
From the very start, when they drape him or her across you, a small, wet sea animal tucked into the rock of your chest, he enters your heart, settles in and stays forever.
Life-long now, after that moment, you will have new hope and you have it over and over again.
You have it when he’s a baby and you want him to breathe safely through each night so you stand near enough to hear the tiny breaths in and out, and if you can’t hear them, you move closer until you see the small chest rise.
You have it when you scoop him from the floor, leave his sand and dry macaroni in a pile, sling him on your hip like a small sack and he sets there, one of his short arms around your side, the other reaching out in front of him making palm sized air-grabs over and over. His hand reminds you of a sea anemone feeding … open, open, open … to see what interesting thing can be caught and clutched and devoured with his
Hope leaps again when he walks away from you for the first time of many times and you realize he’s brave enough, indeed, to walk away. You clap and clap, and he doesn’t know you’ll catch him if he falls because this first time he doesn’t even know falling yet. You maneuver to stay close, arms extended for the catch, just in case.
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You hope each time you learn the same lesson over and over: You can’t make everything that will hurt him go away. It starts early – your hand across his hot head, so hot you feel the heat linger in your palm even as you move to the kitchen to get him water. He’s too sick to cry; he whimpers and rubs his face hard into the sheets. You pick him up, fit him into the space between your neck and chin, tell him you’d make it go away if you could. But you can’t. And so you wait with him; you don’t leave him. Hope.
Years later, when you think you’ve got a handle on this motherhood thing, he’s suddenly outgrown all you knew and you must learn again. You hope you can as he fans out far ahead of you into his whole new world of school – with it will come change after change.
You hope you will learn to let him get himself out of messes and not do it for him. You hope you will learn to let him fail and not scoop him up, so he will learn to scoop himself up and start again. You hope to do it all correctly and hope you can survive knowing, each day, that you can’t do it all correctly – you can’t really even come close.
It’s an interesting job: You go to bed each night knowing you could do better tomorrow. It’s that hard and that big. You will think back, more and more often, to the mothers you’ve known and marvel at what they did.
I picture my own mother. It’s very early in the morning. Foggy still, but the sun is beating the fog down to haze and soon it will be full bright. She has a coffee cup, half full, warming her hands and is curled on the couch like a cat. For this moment, she is still and gathering some deep strength for her day ahead. Still when she sees me, she smiles – all these years later when I have children of my own.
Right now, a white camellia leans from a red vase on the table in front of her. She cut the stem yesterday and showed me the flower. Today, it still holds its layers perfectly, hopefully, and full of life.