I wondered …
The white writing on his black tee-shirt read “Club Da Da,” as in dah dah dah like a musical sound. His creativity was always subtle, always deeply present. Today, he wore the shirt as an announcement of his new title. By the end of the day, he would be a “Da Da.” All of his creativity could not hide the terror played out on his face. Neither of us had any idea how our lives would change that day with the delivery of our baby.
There he was in all his perfect pinkness and mis-shapen head and enviously long eyelashes. Da Da called to me from across the room where they were weighing him, “He just grabbed my thumb!” Tears choked his words. Then, with a part laugh, part choking cry, he said, “… ha ha and he’s got a grip!”
This was the beginning of our journey together. My, and our, Joshua.
The day after delivery, I heeded what all my friends and co-workers had advised: “Just let that baby go back to the nursery and you get some rest. … Once you get home, you’ll never sleep again. … Treat that hospital like a hotel.” By the second day though, after Josh had finished his morning nursing, I did not call the nurse to take him back to the nursery. Rather, I laid him down on my hospital bed between my legs where he peacefully went to sleep. It was just he and I that morning and my life finally felt perfect. All my stars had aligned and all my prayers answered to gift me this one perfect, life-altering being. To have him down the hall in the nursery would not have felt perfect. So, I let him sleep … and I could not take my eyes off of him. As I watched my innocent, precious, perfect newborn boy sleep, I wondered …
My hospital room’s door became like a revolving door. First, the in-laws arrived. Then the doctors and nurses and flower deliveries and co-workers and then my family arrived. Josh? He was passed around the room like a ham loaf at Easter dinner. All the oo-ing and cooing and saying what a good baby he was was not much different than the way they went on about how good the Easter ham was.
Once home from the hospital, the flurry of excitement, visiting family, tottering my way through baby crying 101, and my own exhaustion kept my hands busy and my mind occupied. By day ten, it was again just Josh and I. Dallas was cold and rainy that January morning and the wood siding of our shitty little rental house barely kept out the heavy wind gusts and sleeting rain. Josh was lying on his changing table, post diaper change, happily slobbering to the leaves on the tree flapping against the window. He was adorable in his warm, bright yellow duck-themed Onesie—a perfect outfit for a rainy day, I thought as I snapped him up with a fresh diaper. I absent mindedly grabbed my camera (an amateur photographer, I usually had my camera close by) and, through the lens, I was suddenly spellbound. My heart burst open with a flood of love like I had never experienced. My eyes flowed with tears and I scooped his yellow outfitted self up and swayed and cooed along with him. Through my overwhelm of pure joy, I wondered …
Josh is now twenty-seven years old. My joy and love for him still overwhelms me at times.
Every experience of his life, every tear and every laugh, has been a gift. Every year brought new beginnings, new experiences, joys, challenges, and successes. There were no terrible twos. Rather, there were moments throughout his second year of him finding an independence that both excited and scared him. In step with this was his learning how to process his fear about that new-found independence. It was no different when he was eighteen. Heading off to college with a portfolio full of talent and, in tow, a fierce independence that both feared and excited him. At times, his fear angered him and he expressed it with gusto. Other times he embraced it, tried it on, and moved forward. I knew, it was all part of his process.
I was in lock-step with him through it all, and I simply could not get enough of being a mother. Every change, every breakthrough, cut tooth, new girlfriend or orchestra concert or mother’s day rock I received wrapped up with a bow (yes, rocks as gifts. That’s my boy!). Through it all, all those years of raising my son, I wondered …
How could my mother have chosen to walk away from me when I was only two months old. How she could have, as well, stayed away all of my life. She was never there to play the tooth fairy for me or help me with homework or to let me cry over a boy or to hear me cry out for her from my bassinet … my body has memory of my unanswered cries for her after she left.
My own fascination of observing a simple smile play across my son’s face still astounds me to this day of how she never once glanced my way that hot August day her drunk boyfriend and she drove back to Tulsa from California to kidnap me for money. I was three. Standing at my sitters’ huge picture window, I was jumping up and down and squealing excitedly as I watched her walk up the sidewalk. I stopped. I listened. I heard her knock gingerly on their front door. I had never seen her before, but I just knew it was her! I just knew that finally, finally, she had come back for me. Finally, she would swoop me in her arms and hold me tight and kiss me all-all-all over my chubby cheeked face. Finally, she would tell me she had missed me. Finally, I would hear her say that she loved me. She would tell me, would make me believe that she would never leave me ever, ever again. Finally.
She may as well have been selling mops at the front door that day. As hard as I tried to get her attention, she never looked at me.
I can never get enough of looking at my son. Watching for every change as he grew, listening to the words he read, hearing his voice become a man’s over many years. Even now, when he is home, I sneak a look or two to see the changes in his maturing face and hands. I also check in with his psyche, utilizing that mother’s intuition as a personal barometer to register his level of happiness.
Child birth is thrilling. It is simply amazing to raise a child. The whole experience I find Earth-moving. Throughout my life and, in particular throughout the experience of raising my son, I have wondered at length about my mother’s choices. I finally know that they were her choices and had nothing to do with me or my chubby cheeks.
My choice? I choose love.
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Copyright: Dodie S. Preston, Shae Creative