Dear young mother at the park,
Today I watched you stand by the bay, holding your baby boy, and I couldn’t take my eyes off of you. I’m not a stalker; I’m an aging mother, and seeing you there, touched me. The sun was shining, the breeze making the waves kick up the water. Your little boy, a year and a half? Maybe two? Your boy slept with his chubby arms wrapped around your neck, his head nestled against your chest, his face in your neck. Oh my God, how my heart skipped a beat. His face looked like my little boys’, twenty-three years ago, eighteen years ago. I think it really did look like my boy–– but that happens more and more these days. It’s been a long time since a little boy held my neck and slept so contentedly.
You stood there for a long time, and I wondered what you were thinking. I wondered if you knew how delicious the moment was? I hope so. People told me it was delicious, when my boys were little like that, but it was hard to appreciate, when I was tired from lack of sleep, or wanting a break, and when baby talk and soft food were one more things to get done each day. There were some sweet, sweet moments when I would pause and notice how incredible my little ones’ voices were. There were days when they slept against me and their sweat was the most sacred smell I knew. Each one of my babes had their own smell, and I swear I’d know it still, if I could have bottled it then.
Your little boy’s legs were limp as you wrapped your arms under his little diapered bottom. Those yummy little legs, that I often teased I would eat. The idea seemed plausible then; I was sure they tasted like everything good in life. I watched you lean against the railing by the water and remembered how my children’s sleeping weight strained my back and pushed my body in so many directions. All the King’s horses and all the King’s men couldn’t put me back together again. Changed forever: my breasts now sag for having fed those babies, my stretchies and my grooves are from years of loving, carrying and birthing. Reminders I won’t have tucked or lifted or erased.
Mother, who I watched today, linger in that sleeping neck a little longer. Feel those solid, little boy legs against you. Breath in the salty air and remember how the sun feels, holding your baby. Oh the silly clichés: that time flies; that you will wish you enjoyed the moments which tire you now; you can’t go back, but will wish you can; that it passes in a blink; that your body is so much more beautiful now, than you can appreciate–– all of those things other, older mothers (like me) say to you, when you are in the middle of it… you will have to learn for yourself.
Happy Mother’s Day to all of the strong, tired, wonderful mothers I know, or don’t know. To the women who have birthed children, and those who have loved them. I am a better person in all ways for having been a mother, and for having loved the three people I gave birth to. They are my world, even as their worlds get bigger and bigger. What a beautiful world it is.