They called me on Sunday, staggering their calls
throughout the day, as if by committee: Kacie in late morning,
Kyle in late afternoon, Jaymi just as I was crawling into bed at night.
All three were endearingly apologetic -- Sorry I couldn't afford
you anything this year -- and all three ended the conversation
(What they don't
realize -- what they can't
yet -- is that the phone call and the "I love you" ARE
Hallmarks are mere gravy.)
I spent the day alone.
David made the pilgrimage to Walnut Creek to see his parents,
I was excused from in-law duty (see: dinner last
and enjoyed a long private stretch of Alone Time: my Mothers Day gift
to myself. Most of the day was spent sitting cross-legged on
bed, scanning baby pictures into the electronic
albums, watching Season One of "Dead Like Me" on DVD, eating raw pea
pods right out of the bag ...
... and waiting for the phone to ring.
Mother's Day is no longer the knife in the heart it once was, back in
the days when I was convinced there was
a special room reserved in Hell for mothers who leave their children.
But it is still an obstacle course of
any other day of remembrance -- more than holidays,
family anniversaries, more than the birthdays, even -- it is
the day I miss the babies they once were. It's a very tactile
thing: a longing for the little fuzzy heads, the little sticky fingers,
compact bodies rolled in receiving blankets, like squirming pink
burritos. I can remember hours spent burying my nose into the
juicy folds of their newborn necks ... losing
myself in their wondrous new-baby smell.
Now, I lose myself in scanning their baby photos.
afternoon on Sunday, I remembered that I actually DID have a Mothers
Day gift to open. The
package had arrived earlier in the week ... not
from a Tot,
but from my childhood friend Karen, who now lives a
few hours north of us, in Redding. Karen and I share a bond
of love and
spanning nearly forty years, but it has only been in recent months that
we've kickstarted the friendship beyond the Christmas-card-exchange
level, once again. (Her visit
in February was one
highlights of my year, so far.) I'd opened her package as
as it arrived on Tuesday: a belated birthday card for David, a key
chain, all fringed suede and beads ("I
found us matching
totally Jr. Hi and I love it!!"), some
inspirational writings designed to woo me back to Jesus ... plus
wrapped in flowery paper and labelled "Happy Mothers Day."
Tempted as I was to open it, right there on the spot, I decided
that it might be
more fun -- more meaningful -- to save it for the actual holiday.
So I set the package off to one side and promptly forgot all
about it, until Sunday afternoon, when I was heading to the kitchen for
pods and I saw it
next to the stereo.
I opened it slowly, peeling away layers
of Scotch tape and tissue paper like an onion blossom. (A
when you've got only one present to open, you try to prolong the
mystery as much as possible.) The package was soft and lumpy
squeezable to the touch. Sweater
I thought as I was opening it. Or
Karen is one of those
artsy/crafty people who actually uses a crochet hook for something
other than a computer restart button. But as the
wrapping paper fell away, I saw that it was neither a sweater vest nor
a toaster cozy (nor a pair of slipper socks, nor a table doily, nor a
pair of hand-crocheted bike gloves). It was, in
fact, a small blanket. And
not a brand-new blanket, either, but soft and pilled with age, white
pastel stripes in pink, blue and
yellow. It looked a lot like one of the blankets I'd
my own babies in, a bazillion and four years ago.
Why would Karen send me an old receiving blanket?
Puzzled, I opened the card that had come with the gift, hoping it would
shed some light on the situation. In Karen's familiar joyous
scrawl, the card read:
sent me this, your favorite baby blanket, that you had
used on all
three of your Tots. It was such a special gift, I used it
all three of mine. I
each infant in this till they outgrew it.
being swaddled very tight! This worked
like it back.
friend and sister of heart."
I had to read the card
times before it registered. Then I read it
another three times, and another three times after that. A
memory, long forgotten, began to tickle the back of my brain: Karen, pregnant with her
child, coming to visit us in the little Kirkland house, sometime in the
mid-1980's ... and me ducking out of the room for a
few minutes, sneaking down the hall and into the baby's bedroom,
looking for something to give my friend as a new-baby present.
For the rest of the day I kept the blanket next to me on the
bed, pausing frequently to stroke it, to look at
it, to pick it up and smell it as I
scanned photos from my childrens' babyhoods. I imagined, as I
was touching it, that it still held fragments of their newborn DNA
... that I was once again touching those little
fuzzy heads, those little sticky fingers, those little compact bodies.
It made me feel closer, somehow, to my children ...
and to my best friend.
It was the very best Mother's Day gift I have ever received.
to throw a rock?