When baby Jack awoke crying a few nights ago, I ran to his crib, asked him if he’d had a bad dream, and told him not to worry, that I’d blow all the bad dreams away. Then I took a great, big breath, and blew in the air above him.
My mom used to do that.
And when he fell and cut his lip and started crying one recent afternoon, I picked him up, nuzzled him into the nook of my shoulder, and made the hurt go away.
My mom used to do that.
And now, when he gives me “presents,” I squeal with delight and say, “Oh, for me?” even if the gift happens to be slimy, partially chewed-up cheese or a tuft of shedded dog hair.
My mom used to do that, too.
And today, when I was picking up some bagels for lunch, I overheard a conversation between the teenage and twentysomething kids behind the counter.
“… Well forget that! You should do what you want!” one of them said adamantly.
“Yeah? But what if I get caught? I’m scared of my parents!” said another.
“You’re scared of your parents?” a third one asked. “That’s terrible. I’m sure not scared of my parents.”
Much to my surprise, I jumped in, without being invited, without even thinking.
I said: “Great! I think it’s great if you’re scared of your parents. Because that’ll help keep you out of trouble until you can keep yourself out of trouble.”
Wow. Isn’t this an interesting turn of events.
I mean, when was it that I went from being the sort of challenging child who inspires her parents to consult child-rearing books, to a rebellious teenager with all the answers, to a troubled young adult, and now to this - Donna Reed?
When did I start thinking thoughts like, “That young man needs a haircut” and “That music is too loud,” and, I’m absolutely horrified to actually admit this, “When I was your age….”
Life. There seems to be some inexplicable cycle. The point is between all these startling realizations, and the fact that with Mother’s Day just past, lately I’ve been thinking a lot about my mom.
I mean, she did a lot more than blow the nightmares away, and make my bumps and bruises seem insignificant, and instill enough fear, or respect, or whatever you want to call it, into me that I didn’t become a professional criminal.
She also knew how to make the giant monsters outside my bedroom window go away, she ran alongside me when I was learning to ride a bike, jumped into a pool hysterically - with all her clothes on - when, as a little squirt, my head went under, wrote me embracing letters when I was unbearably homesick that first year of college and, these days, is always there to talk to me, no matter how late at night I call.
Yes, we argued a lot. We still argue a lot. But I used to think it was because we were so very, very different.
“You are my sunshine, my only sunshine …”
“Doopty, doopty, doopty-doo …”
My mother’s voice - her words, her songs - filled my baby’s room this morning.
Except that, my mother was thousands of miles away, and the sound was coming from me.
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