Mothers and Sons
The mother heard him jumping in his crib waiting to be picked up; his arms outstretched. His summer sear-sucker pajamas with the snaps were soggy, his diaper full, the sunshine of an entire day in his smile.
She swooped him to the changing table asking him questions about what they were going to do that day and he could only answer, "mama", as his little bottle wriggled and giggled. She put him in his jean overalls, held him and gave him a delicious warm bottle as she rocked him in his room. She sang James Taylor songs as the son reached his toes up and tangled them in her hair. She said a little prayer. He sucked and stared into her eyes, imprinting, maybe, a moment of love that might stay with him forever. Or at least a soul memory that he could retrieve.
The boy grew up "overnight", at least that's how it felt to his mother. He was taller than she now and with that came a more mutual protectiveness. Possibly, a shared realization of how long they had actually loved each other, a sense of infinity.
It was February.She could hear the winter in his deep voice, cracking a little, giving away a bit of what he was feeling.The call came from school and it had been awhile since he reached out. He talked to her as he always had and took his time finding clarity into where the trouble was. The older he got, the more she realized that she couldn't just hoist him up onto that well worn spot on her right hip, the one that's always sore in the rain now. She couldn't tuck him in under his favorite blankets in front of Indiana Jones or Homeward Bound. No hot chocolate, no perfect grilled cheese, no blue, worn-out bunny, none of it would take away the sad feelings of the boy who had grown. Such necessary losses and disillusionments, hurts and disappointments come to make us whole, though it feels like broken glass. Even her words, straight from her heart, could not replace a passage that only he could make and that which is right and good.
In time, as he always had, he would draw his strength like a sword from his belt, deal with the conflict and start to face it. And then his inner courage, the same kind of fearlessness that got him to climb out of his crib one morning, not needing the arms of the mother to pick him up, moved him. It led him to mountains and life affirming leaps of faith in a place very far from home. Could he have known how many prayers were whispered for him at home and also within the blessed moments that he would have. In his travels, he would meet a small boy, whose job was to fiercely row foreigners across a small body of water. The boy's little feet couldn't even touch the bottom of the boat and when he reached the shoreline, he ducked his full head into the water for cooling. A sweet prayer came through him and the young man noticed himself in the boy. A prayer came through another named, Merlin, who reminded the young man of the stories of magical possibilities that had long held his fascination in his youth. A prayer came through the eyes of a young woman who knew him as a young boy as he kicked the soccer ball in the mountain valley with a carefree smile and the agility of a colt. He recalled how easy it is to live with simple joys. A prayer came through the travelers who saw the light in him, the sharing of smiles and encouraging words. A prayer waited for him at the summit, a promise from God to always care for him. The young man heard peace in the frigid air and left his boyish red bag from so many years before, somewhere in the ice. With fingers he could hardly feel, he came down from the mountain with new senses. He was taller.
And then he came to the prayers of his mother at the airport, "Thank you, God for bringing him home safe and sound." He was wrapped in what his mother thought was a prayer shawl. He took it from his shoulders and gave to her a wondrously vibrant blanket used by the mountain mothers to carry their babies. They carried them tightly on their backs through all their waking hours, through all their chores, keeping them close, until they clambered out of it. The mother would keep this blanket forever and she continued to whisper prayers of love and hope for all of the journeys in her son's life. She holds him inside, whether he's near or far, humming James Taylor songs, in the peace of knowing that home is the lodging of one's soul.