I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the moments of my life. The important things. The big things. The small, seemingly simple things…
The way Delaney toddles on her cast because she needs to sneak in walking before we tell her to sit on her butt. She went from being a 9-month walking baby to a 16-month-old toddler in a candy-cane striped cast with a broken tibia beneath it. Her smiles, mischeiveous and silly, when she steps away from the coffee table to a nearby toy – she knows she won’t quite make it there without a stumble or Mama reminding her to sit, yet she tries it anyway as she remembers when she had freedom with no limitations.
The way Jemma hangs upside-down on the monkey swing that hangs in the playroom doorway. She looks like a spider monkey inching her way up the doorframe until her 5-year-old hand finally grasps the bar above her head. Her strong legs flip over her head and she hooks the back of her knees to the bar, dangling there with a big, proud smile on her face. “Mama, did you see me?” She asks, for the 16th time. I glance up at her to meet her eyes and I respond with glee as if it was the first time I saw her accomplish this.
The way Layla has done so well with her school work. She began 2nd grade this year transitioning from Montessori, where she had gone to school since she was 18 months of age. Struggling, she fell behind her classmates and I could see her confidence wavering. With help from a tutor and several caring faculty, I have been watching her grades improve. The smile she gets when she answers a math problem right. The eager way she sounds out words and reads to us from single-sentence pages. Her happiness at success.
The way John works so hard from his office by our front door or from a conference room in some town I’ve never been. He paces the wood floor of our house as he helps clients sort out their problems. He sorts laundry, washes dishes, and wipes the baby’s butt with his headset on, just waiting for another call. He talks and laughs and plays and supports and encourages, all while doing his work and providing for a family he chose to be part of. My heart swells with gratitude that he keeps our life on-track. Happily.
There is so much here. In this house. In this family. And at times, as I watch these sweet moments of our lives play out in front of me, I don’t know how I got here. How I somehow managed to be so fortunate, so blessed…
The moments of my life were not always so… beautiful.
What matters to me now are their smiling faces. Their peaceful dreams. Their healthy bodies, their busy minds. What makes me stay – every single day – is knowing the purpose that is this life. This role. The mother. The wife.
I watch them. So carefully.
It goes too quickly. All of this fades. What will we have left if not for these moments? What matters if not for this, right now?
This life makes me contemplate something difficult, and I ponder a thousand questions with no answers as I perform this dance of Mama and his love; was it the same for her?
Did she notice these moments in her own life? Did she stop, see, and savor?
One can easily miss it. I know that, because I have done it on countless occasions. I coast through days as much as the next person. Waiting for the next vacation. The next new thing. The next quiet moment alone…
I have missed their smiling faces. Their peaceful dreams. Their healthy bodies, and busy minds. I have missed sweet kisses, dances in the kitchen, tucks into bed. I have missed bedtime stories, important heart-to-hearts, and talks through difficult feelings. I have not always been present, and understood that what matters is right here, right now.
It makes me have a new respect for who she was, and what she did. And how she did it. And why.
But it also makes me sad. Because I would give just about anything for a moment with her, here, to watch as my life has grown to resemble something great. I would give anything for her to watch my baby toddle in her cast. I would give anything for her to watch as my middle child hangs from the bar in the playroom doorway. I would give anything for her to celebrate with my oldest child as she reads an entire book without stumbling one time. I would give anything for her to be able to look my husband in the eyes and thank him for how hard he works for us, and how he has provided us such a great life.
She is missing this. The important things. The big things. The small, seemingly simple things…
In a week I will be where she last was. And oddly enough, not only is this the first Christmas I have been home since 2005 – it was actually the last time I saw her. It was the last time I hugged her. It was the very last time my mother ever told me she loved me.
The moments. The ones that count. I will make new ones, with my own family, 11 years later, in the very house I was sitting in when I heard that my mom had died.
So, now, I am paying attention. Quietly watching. . . Because I know how important this is. How much it matters. But it makes me miss her. Miss what was taken when she went away. More than this, though, lately I have been wondering if she knew it. If she saw the moments of her life. If she recognized them, and cared, and kept them safe within her heart as treasures more precious than gold.
John has been urging me to write for a while. I know that it is something I need to do. Something that helps me to process things, to work it out, and to heal – piece by piece. This is my sanctuary, but it hurts me to do this, because I must face what takes me away from right here, right now. Also, it makes me face that the one who carried me and helped me grow is gone, and I hate to acknowledge that when I have my own family, and they need me present. Acknowledging this is not something that happens just one time, like the moment I fell to the floor in sobbing desperation at the news of her passing.
It happens constantly. Especially lately. Going home does that. It causes that. Because I yearn for a piece of my life to be whole again and I cannot make it whole. I want for her to hold my children, and I am not sure that will fade even as we move forward through the years. I want for her to laugh, and dance, and play with them, and watch the moments of our lives become the things she treasures most. I want for her to look at me, in the eyes, and tell me she is proud of who I am, and what I have done, and see that I am a mother who pays attention, and cares, and remembers these moments.
It’s a hard thing, to dig around in my heart, and figure out why something is keeping me from being present. It is her. It is often, if not always in some way… Her. Christmas time. Vancouver. It is her.
I am trying to keep it silent, this ache, but it’s getting harder to accomplish this. My excitement grows for my children to play in the snow and have hot chocolate with Grandpa Jim, and to laugh with their eleven cousins and have bonfires in their Uncle’s back yard. There is real joy there, but the looming sadness never leaves me. I resent that even as I dream of stepping foot where I grew up again…
Because these moments will fade, and I want to do this right. I want to watch Delaney toddle with a plastic bag wrapped around her leg to shield from the cold snow – she’s never seen snow! I want to throw a snowball at Jemma and Layla and build Olaf and laugh because he likes warm hugs. I want to kiss my husband and not be thinking about anything else while my lips are against his because he made this trip a reality, and he worked hard so that we could build these memories.
Like all that matters are these moments – I want that in a way more than I want to remember her. Because remembering her gets in the way of being present. Because I have yet to learn how to have both, at the same time. Because they deserve from me what she tried to give – a present mother.
Right now, my heart is trying. To do better for them, to give more for them. To be who she wanted to be, and I hope as I accomplish this, and I am here, now, they have everything they need. Even in the sweet, simple moments. Because as I have learned, these are the only ones that matter.