The other day, over the phone, I asked my mom if she remembers feeling any “motherly” feelings as the mother of this baby. She told me she knew how to put on a good show.
But, then she said:
If I have to guess, I’d say I was about nine months old in this photo. I look happy, looking deep into my mom’s eyes. She is captivating and beautiful as she’s smiling into my face, searching for me too. This photo got me misty-eyed, yet full-blown tears I feel coming on. My chest feels heavy. Tears are streaming into droplets on my keyboard. When did life steal the smile out of me and my mom? When did she stop looking at me like this? When did I stop being able to make eye contact with her? If I were anyone else, I’d think this little girl grew up to feel well-loved and nurtured.
Writing about this is much more difficult than I imagined. I thought I’d felt all the emotions thousands of times, but evidently, that’s not enough. My mom is smiling, holding me up like she is proud to show me off. She’s looking up at me like she’s joyful about my existence and communicating with me–just me and Mommy. I wonder if she held me close after this photo was taken if she gave me kisses or said I love you, and that rush of BIG LOVE forced itself through her chest and she felt an overwhelming sense of protection over me, her daughter.
I wish I could teach this woman holding this precious baby how to love me well. I would bring myself closer to her. I’d never stop searching for my daughter. I would nurture and love her so deeply that she wouldn’t ever feel like she was alone. She would know a mother’s love. She would be surrounded by joy and depth. Her sensitivity would be valued for the gift that it is, that I am. Seeing myself in a frilly little dress, this may have been taken after a church service or event.
As this baby’s mom, I’d probably be really tired and go curl up on the couch to take a nap with my beautiful daughter. The immense feelings of sweet motherhood would sweep powerfully through me as I gently breathed in the top of her head for an afternoon nap. (The top of a baby’s head is the sweetest smell in the world.) These are the things I would do, that I did with my own babies.
How is it that my mom didn’t get the trait of “mother”? Nightmares, demons, and darkness wouldn’t take over my girl’s little spirit, because I’m her mom. She wouldn’t be left to hide from the monsters alone. I would give her big hugs and kisses so often so she knows what sincere affection feels like. I’d encourage her to be exactly who she is, sensitive, tender-hearted, and brave. I’d learn how to nurture qualities that were different from mine, even when it scared me. I wouldn’t push her away. I would instill in her the knowledge that she was wonderfully made and never too much or not enough.
What I think about a lot these days is how much I wish I could experience my childhood again with my mom, as she is now. Recently, we cried on the phone together as she told me that she wishes she could do it all over knowing what she knows now. I desperately needed to hear this from her. It was exactly what the little girl in me longed for more than anything else in the world. I didn’t think that day was ever going to come. To hear her say that, I knew she was speaking through her tears, was by all of the meaning, it was the most nurturing thing she could have said. It may have been the most nurturing thing she ever said to me.