Wednesday, May 12, 2010
The weekend before Mother's Day, we celebrated my son, Beren's, 7th birthday. I had lost my voice due to illness and was exhausted from caring for the new puppy he'd received as an early present, but decided to go ahead with the planned extended-family celebration. I'm glad I did. It was a wonderful day, for him and for us, but it left me completely wiped out and entirely mute.
When I entered Beren's room that evening bearing a laundry basket, I was seized with a tremendous coughing fit. When it finally passed, I collapsed onto his bed and groaned weakly. He solemnly pressed my hand between his sweaty palms and gazed intently at my face for a moment, then uttered one word: "Come."
I was too depleted to resist. I let him lead me into the hallway and through the door of my own bedroom where he pointed commandingly towards the bed. I didn't move. I knew that if I laid down in that bed I probably wouldn't be able to rise again any time soon. Beren must have sensed my hesitation because at that moment he marched towards me, wading through the sea of clothing I had strewn about the floor, and towed me firmly across the room. After stowing me (none to gently) beneath the covers, he flipped on the humidifier I had sitting on my night stand and crawled into bed next to me.
For a few moments we just laid there and cuddled, but then, the inevitable: . . ."Mom. Stay right here. Don't go anywhere. I have to go to the bathroom." I can't tell you how often this happens. If Beren Chritstopher Mowrer is ever elected president of the United States, I guarantee you that on the way to his swearing in, the entire motorcade if going to have to pull over and wait for the Commander-in-Chief to take a poo.
He was gone a long time (even for him) and when he finally came back he had a surprise. With no fanfare whatsoever, he slapped a dripping wet rag across my forehead and then stood back to behold my delight. "Uh . . . thanks," I sputtered, wondering which cartoon I had to thank for teaching him that little first aid technique. "You're welcome," he affirmed benevolently. I can also use the massager on you if you want." Without waiting to find out if "I want" or not, he scrambled over the side of the bed and fired it up.
Since I was lying on my back, Beren demonstrated great adaptability by massaging the palms of my hands on the highest setting for several minutes. When I could no longer stand the intense relaxation this produced in my nervous system, I tactfully suggested that perhaps I could turn over and let him work on my back. He agreed and soon the 10 pound massage wand was racing over my spine and shoulder blades like a stock car at the Indianapolis 500.
At some point in the midst of all this muscle therapy, I began to cough again. Beren quickly flipped off the massager and began pounding me heartily on the back like an enthusiastic life guard trying to save a drowning swimmer.
When I recovered from the coughing and its "cure," Beren draped his body across mine and intoned with great solemnity: "I ----- love----you." There was something funny about the way he said it and it took me a minute to figure out what it was. He wasn't just saying the words to be nice . . . he was applying them like one would administer ointment on a cut or the final stitch that seals the wound. Evidently he considered this a crucial part of my recovery. "And why not?" I mused. I certainly never neglected to include it when trying to heal him. "Let me know if you need more snuggling," he directed. I held out my arms to indicate that I did.
I keep a flashlight by my bed for reading and a few minutes later it caught Beren's attention. He repositioned the wet rag over my eyes (creating many new rivulets that ran down my neck and pooled in my hair) and began shining it at various angles into my face, asking each time, "Can you see the light now?" I was pretty sure we were done with "tenderness" now that his mind had taken a scientific turn, but I was wrong.
After determining that I could indeed see the light if he shoved it practically up my nose, Beren finally turned it off and asked me a question: "Mom, have you ever read a book, seen a movie, or played a video game about the original Star Wars?" "Yes," I croaked. He brightened, "Want me to read to you about it?" I nodded.
He dashed from the room and returned clutching a blue book with a tattered binding. "You're gonna love this," he promised. After courteously fluffing my pillow for me he began: "Long ago and far, far away, there was an evil empire . . . "
He was right. I did love it. I loved all of it. My bruised ribs, the damp pillow, the hum of the humidifier, and the age old battle of good an evil being played out in my son's childish voice next to my ear. Heck! I even loved the dang puppy who piddles on my floor and keeps eating my rug every chance she gets. It's part of the whole glorious, untidy, maddening, wonderful package that is motherhood.
You can't pick which pieces you'll get and which you'll leave out. There are as many ways to celebrate mothers as there are stars in the sky. None of them is wrong. But I'd like to suggest that sometimes the celebrations come when you least expect them (and some times they feel like a punishment). But try not to miss them. The same circumstances that create one perfect moment with your child will never come together in exactly the same way again.
Recently, I saw a framed poem in a thrift store by Ruth Hulburt Hamilton that I can't seem to forget. I'm going to leave an excerpt of it with you as my final thought for Mother's Day 2010.
The cleaning and scrubbing will wait till tomorrow,
for children grow up, as I've learned to my sorrow.
So quiet down, cobwebs. Dust go to sleep.
I'm rocking my baby and babies don't keep.