August 8, 2013

Six Months, or The Bewilderment of Mother Love

I have been a mother for six months. Half a year. Winter to summer. Brown to green. Snow to heat lightning. Egg to flight. 184 rotations of the earth, and so many moments with my cheek placed along the skin of my son.

I have lived delight.

And exhaustion.

And a breaking away of time. Those 184 rotations happened, surely, but sometimes I glance out the window and it is startling to see the clover, so lush and purple-budded, instead of white. Perhaps it is because Elliot came to us in this northern land when everything was insular and tucked away and, for the most part, still. What I do know is that despite my denial, he has grown as quickly as the clover, observant and beautiful and steadfast, and I love him more than all the other studied and cultivated sections of my wild-garden life.

I might have anticipated this, but I could not have anticipated him, this person.

It's bewildering, really: what it means to be a mother, to be his mother, to still be me.

On the night of the solstice--a dusk that goes on and on--I leave El sleeping with his papa, and I walk with the same steps, the exact same lightness that I felt at twenty-one, sneaking out of a clapboard cabin at 5:30 in the morning and tiptoeing through dew and fog to the shores of the Chesapeake Bay, just so I could watch the sunrise in that unruly quiet. Just so I could feel the vibrations in my body, the way everything that mattered ran without motors into the perfect dawn. I walk with those same steps, the same sandals even, down the avenues and trails of my domestic neighborhood, and I am humming with that same energy, that same ease. I look up and the sky. The sky! It is just as big.

And days later I am out with Elliot along a lake, and a boy of about ten zooms toward us on his bike. He is wiry and tan, flip-flops and a baseball cap. When he passes us, he gives me a perfect smile, a perfect hello, a perfect pump of his pedals, and I think, You are my son. I see a boy at the park, flinging himself down the tallest slide, and I think, You are my son. I watch teenagers at the parade, flaunting and flirting, and I can hardly believe it, but I believe it: My sons. I see my husband more clearly than I ever have, all the way back to his days as a first-born blue-eyed boy brought home to Deep Lake. Elliot shifts in my arms--the wind off the water, the sun, the leaves skipping from shadows to light--and as I hold him I feel very old. It is one thing to watch a sunrise. It is another to bear the weight of all the sunrises and sunsets that your boy will ever know.

The heaviness and the lightness. I oscillate between them at such speeds that it is no wonder motherhood sometimes leaves me feeling dazed.

And yet I wake in the morning to baby noises--bleary-eyed, wrinkled, startled from some dream--and I go to this child. The light is sifting in through the blinds. I blink and I blink. The dream is still there, on the periphery of my consciousness, and it's funny because on most days it feels like it never fully leaves. Instead it floats around me like particulates, trails my body like streaks of cosmic dust, and it follows me into the space where my son is.

I see him and he sees me.

And then we are both smiling with perfect ease, both making sounds from our memories of each other and of moments we haven't yet experienced, from Chesapeake mornings, from big sky nights, from the sensation of the earth spinning and spinning and spinning on its finely pointed axis, 184 million times. When I reach for him, and he reaches for me, and I lift him up and the dream is still there, like the light, slipping all around us--six months feels almost silly. I have been this boy's mother my whole life.



19 comments:

  1. "...the way everything that mattered ran without motors into the perfect dawn." Yes. So beautiful. And Elliot has wide-eyes of wonder, just like you.

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    1. Thank you, Erin. One of the benefits of being a parent is seeing that wonder in your child's eyes, and experiencing it through them all over again.

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  2. I also love that line, but the entire piece is stunningly beautiful. Gorgeous writing. And what a sweet little man you have there...

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    1. Thanks so much, Teresa. I can only hope he'll still let me call him sweet when he's sixteen! :)

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  3. Oh, Emily, as the mother of three (now grown and one soon to marry), I can absolutely relate to this post. You possess an incredible way with words, composing the thoughts of millions of mothers through the ages.

    Your boy is gorgeous, as are you. You are both blessed beyond measure to have each other. Keep on savoring the moments because all too soon he will be that teenager on the bike, then behind the wheel of a car and then off on a plane (perhaps) to college, as my son will soon be, more than 1,000 miles from me. I can hardly bare the thought.

    Thank you for this poignant piece. Thank you.

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    1. Audrey, thank you for sharing your insights here. I've been extremely blessed to have had the opportunity to be home with El these past six months, but I will soon head back to work. It's not 1000 miles away from him, but it might as well be for all the emotion it's making me feel. I can only imagine how many times emotions like this will grip me throughout his life. I'm certain I will lean on the experience of mothers just like you as I make the adjustment. Best wishes as you and your family as you go through your own transitions!

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  4. Emily:

    First, this is a fabulous photo of you and Elliot. Second, your writing draws readers in, no matter their age. At 65, your words can bring me instantly back to the days when I held my children, one in each arm, fresh from a bath, fresh as summer flowers in our garden.

    You are, and will always be, a kind, loving mother always open to the changes and miracles of growth. God bless your family.

    Gratefully,

    Rich

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    1. Thank you, Richard. When I press "publish" on a post, I do so for me -- a way to release my thoughts so they can grow and change and teach me something. But it is always a bonus when I find that other people relate some how to what I've written. Thanks for sharing. If you have grandchildren someday, I'm sure the fondness with which you recall your own days of being a parent will make you an excellent grandpa. :)

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  5. Beautiful post and photos - motherhood is such an adventure! :-)

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  6. As beautiful as anything you'll ever write you should save all of these memories for your son to read some day. Both you and your son are absolutely radiant. Motherhood seems to agree with you wonderfully!

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  7. As always, your words delight - they're compelling in their beauty. But the first photo of Elliott is all I can look at. To recapture something of that experience, that obvious sense of wonder - isn't that the reason we bear children, rise every day, walk out into the world, look up and out?

    A beautiful post. And Bill's right. This will be a gift beyond words for your son.

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    1. Yes, yes, and yes. Whenever El is the least bit fussy, I take him outside and immediately he is all amazement. I love that. Helps me stay in the here and now and ohso grateful.

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  8. Oh that's beautiful! I saw you'd commented on Ian Hill's blog The Printed Land and although I don't often follow the blog trail these days (so little time!) I was made curious by Ian's appreciation. This is luminous writing - thank you.

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    1. Thank you for stopping over, Selina. I see that you have a little one, too, so it means a lot that these mother-words resonated with you. Hope you pop back again. Happy to have you here!

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  9. Oh this is beautiful! I saw you'd commented on Ian Hill's blog The Printed Land and although I don't follow the blog trail so often these days (so little time!) I was curious...This is luminous writing - thank you

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