I’ve spent much of today feeling otherworldly, having arrived home after midnight this morning after working an eight hour shift at the restaurant, where I was hit on by (mostly) toothless older guys who did not even blink at my wedding ring. I walked in the door, bleary-eyed and exhausted, and there was a basket of goodies on the table and my husband was cleaning, as he almost always is when I get home at night.
“Happy Mother’s Day,” he said, and I smiled at the gesture. We talked about our nights and then went to bed. About four hours later, he brought Simon to me to nurse. There was a little more sleep, the fumbling effort to get all four of us ready for church, and then the drive there, when I called my mom and we spoke but I couldn’t say all the things I wanted to say. Instead I said, “Happy Mother’s Day!” and “I wish I was there so I could make you breakfast or something.”
There’s always more to say, right? Such as:
I’m almost three years into this gig and it seems I’ve learned more about life in that time than in all my years before becoming a mother. The sleepless nights, the exhaustion, the irrational anger and frustration at the sink full of dirty dishes and the food on the floor. The mounting piles of laundry, the diapers to be changed and washed, the tantrums, the stubborn refusal to get dressed, to eat, to walk on the sidewalk. The constant buzzing of worry and anxiety and, yes, even depression that comes with the isolation and back-breaking work of mothering. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – but motherhood brings me to the very edge of myself and back again every single day. Every day there is a reckoning, I take a hard look at myself in the mirror, I take deep breaths, I cook and clean and change diapers, I love, I love, I love. It’s love that propels me through all the shit, both literal and metaphorical, to a place where I see both my sons’ sweet faces and their tears of frustration and I know beyond any doubt that this, this love, is the greatest meaning of life.
It is this love that brings me to grace, to forgiveness, to healing, to possibility.
That is what I meant to say to my mother. And I wanted to say that we are both imperfect and that we’ve both made mistakes. I wanted to say that we’ve both always done our best but in weak moments we’ve disappointed and hurt each other. I wanted to say that because she loves me, I can love my own children without reservation or fear.
It’s like the series finale of Six Feet Under, when Claire, who is the youngest child, is leaving for New York to embrace her future, and her family is seeing her off. Claire tells her mother Ruth, “Thank you for giving me life.” And Ruth shakes her head and says, “You gave ME life.”
I could philosophize all day about my mother who gave me life and my children who also gave me life. The love we share is a reminder of the invisible umbilical cord that binds us for eternity. Together we will live forever.