You Made It, Whatever It Is

Every year mothers lose something like a billion brain cells. Where do brain cells go when they die? I’ll tell you. They turn into cellulite and live in our butts. Look in the mirror. If you have a big gadonk, chances are at one time you were one smart woman.

You gave birth 18 years ago to the sweetest green-eyed baby in the whole world. He refused to sleep, but you didn’t care. You were in love. You struggled through nursing, and you learned how to navigate your sleep-deprived world, and that baby’s birth was the closest you’ve ever come to touching the face of God. He was your first, so you didn’t know how tough you had it until the next baby was born, and that one slept. Then you had two babies to manage, and it was a good thing that the second one was placid, because the first one was moved as if he floated in an electrical current.

The babies got older and it didn’t get any easier and then you went and got pregnant again. When the third baby was born the oldest was two and a half, and you had three children in diapers and a baby on each boob. Fissures opened in your brain. Things that would have been effortless to remember three years before slipped through gaping crevices in your memory, gone forever. The oldest, the one with undiagnosed ADD, began climbing kitchen cabinets and learned how to jimmy locks and had a high mechanical aptitude for dismantling things: toys, radios, small buildings.

One day when you were in the kitchen fixing lunch and the baby was in a swing and the middle child was seated on the floor stacking blocks, you realized there was a disturbing quiet in the space where the oldest should have been. So you dropped what you were doing and ran through the house calling his name, and he answered but you couldn’t find him. “Mama!” he called from some distant place. “Mama!” You panicked, yelled his name, screamed, “Where are you?” You raced upstairs, destroyed the closet, pulled everything out from under the bed. You heard him but you couldn’t find him. In the moment you thought your head might detach from your shoulders, holding fistfuls of hair, you stood in the room and screamed his name. That’s when you saw tiny fingers gripping the windowsill from the outside. He was right there all along, waiting for you to pull him to safety.

Silly woman.

You are glad God didn’t reveal what you were getting into ahead of time. If you’d known about the near misses, the grip of absolute panic, the gaping fear, the feel of your heart stopping and then laboriously resuming its rhythm, you might not have gotten into this mess of motherhood. But last week, as you were sitting in that sultry auditorium and the sound of “Pomp and Circumstance” filled the air, you forgot about all that. There he was, cleaned up, freshly shaven, wearing a tie, topped off with a mortar board, and your heart filled up like it did the day he was born. Those astonishing green eyes, as big as the world, a dashing almost-man smile, and a high school diploma in his grip. You wipe away tears of joy, ruminate for a moment on the travails of the last 18 years, and thank God in heaven above that you made it, that he made it, and that from here on he can’t possibly make any more messes.

Silly woman.

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