I lost my mother many years ago. Everything changed in my world, but it wasn’t so sudden. It was a gradual drift, a strange growing feeling. I lost myself and sense of center, calm and balance. She didn’t die, she just disappeared from my life. She’s out there, somewhere in Smalltown, USA. She works a regular job and drives a new car. On the weekends, she and my father go sailboating and ride a Harley.
Something changed between us, we aren’t who we were. She wasn’t there when my son was born and she didn’t see his first steps. She thought she was too young to be a grandmother and I guess shrugged at the thought of it and let it slip from her mind. She’s never been to my son’s birthday party and didn’t see me graduate college this last time. We don’t have tea in the afternoon or go outlet shopping or shop for baby clothes. She sends my cards for holidays and I sent them back, more out of courtesy than sincerity. What else do you do with a mother that isn’t there?
But when my son was born, four years ago, in the soft glow of morning sun, streaming into my living room windows, I learned about love. I certainly didn’t see myself as a mother, I wasn’t ready at all. The kid squealed and squalled and I didn’t really know how to hold him or what to call him. I had postpartum depression and the house was a mess and my boyfriend was drunk and so I left.
It was he and I and the world. We nuzzled together late Saturday mornings and I didn’t have to share the experiences of first word or step or tooth. We walked to the park or the library most days. I’d tell him the difference between species of bird and name the colors of petunia hanging from baskets along the Granville Street bridge. The mallards would quack in approval from down in the water below.
Sometimes I made mistakes. I let him wander too far away sometimes and had to snatch him from the oncoming cars. I set a book of CD’s, borrowed from the library, too close to his baby seat and it was launched out the window by baby fingers. I left gold oil paint out and the newly refinished dining room set fell victim to unremoveable baby fingerprints on the damask fabric.
Soon, I realized we were all each other had and he slowly filled the hole in my life, having lost both mother and boyfriend. We were all each other had and needed. And I realized not what motherhood was. The secret? All you had to do was show up. Really. Toddlers don’t care if they still have pajamas on at 3 pm. They don’t care if they eat macaroni and cheese for a week of suppers. They don’t know that you make mistakes and honestly don’t care.
That’s the secret of love: Be There. All else will be forgotten.