“I wanted a perfect ending. Now I've learned, the hard way, that some poems don't rhyme, and some stories don't have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what's going to happen next. Delicious Ambiguity.”Gilda Radner

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Trading Mommies

I always knew I wanted to be a mother, but like most things in the my life, it happened a little sooner than I expected it to. Because of that, I felt ten steps behind in everything motherhood involved. When I discovered I don't take naturally to infants--that innocent squawling cry raises the hair on my arms and turns my stomach--and when my baby was sick the first time and up all night with a snuffly nose, and when my baby had pretty tough acid reflux that hasn't even quit at seven years old, I took none of it with a grain of salt. I did not grin and bear it. I threw my shaking fists toward heaven and cried out, "Why??? Why is this so hard for me???"

First of all, after having Noah, I've learned that Joey was actually a pretty easy baby. Embarrassing point number one.

Next, I did eventually realize that other people don't necessarily know exactly what to do every step of the way their first time around, either. They just don't freak out like I do. But as Noah would say, freaking out is kind of my thing. In fact, we come from a long line of freak-outters. Even knowing that, though, that I freaked out about things other people didn't, left me with a heavy weight of guilt. Somehow, it still meant to me that I was less of a mother, or that my children would always have a mother who wasn't quite as good. The feeling didn't go away until one day, unrelated to any of these emotions, I was invited by my mom and sister to visit Lily Dale, the community of psychics outside of Buffalo. Whatever you think about psychics, I went along, and I had a reading, during which the old, gnarled-fingered woman gripped my hands in a dark, candle-lit room, leaned forward and said earnestly, "You have always believed your mother didn't want you." 

I grew up in an extremely loving home and wanted for nothing my entire life. My mother told me I was beautiful and special every day, and on the whole, we are a people who understand the meaning of the phrase, "I would do anything for you." So yes, of course, I have always believed my mother didn't want me. In all seriousness, it was more because I'd heard countless times from countless sources how I was unplanned, a surprise, an accident, a "whoops baby," and so, love and comfort aside, I always had a nagging suspicion that I was less wanted than my brother and sister. (Who, if I ever asked them, would probably cheerfully confirm my suspicion.)

But that's not all. The psychic went on. "You have a child of your own now, yes?" 

I nodded, unwilling to give much away to this woman who might or might not be a total phony-baloney. I didn't even trust my voice, since I know how easily I show my emotions. 

"Your child was unplanned." She stated it, confident. "But you love your child. It's a boy, yes?"

Again, I nodded, feeling annoyed that she was "guessing" everything so accurately. 

"A person is here from the other side. She was very close to your mother. She had a beautiful rose garden, she keeps showing me her roses. She spent a lot of time caring for your mother when she was a child. This was also unplanned. Do you know who this person is?"

Hanging on to my stubbornness, I hesitated before nodding, but it was just too specific. The woman the psychic was referring to was, without question, my great-grandmother. "Nani" to all of us. We were raised hearing the stories of what it was like to grow up in a house with "Nani." Though she passed away long before any of us could know her, the memories and stories of her were so ingrained in us, it was like we knew her as well as our mother had.

"It's my great-grandmother," I said, giving in a bit.

"Your great-grandmother considered your mother a special blessing, always. She loved your mother, and was grateful to have the chance to love her. Likewise, your mother consider you her special blessing and loved you the same way. This woman, she wants you to know that because you are your mother's special blessing, she watches over you."

Of course, by now, I was crying. But it wasn't over yet.

"You are never sure of yourself as a mother. Your great-grandmother wants you to know--babies choose their mothers. You have this special blessing, your son, because he chose you. And she watches you, and you are a wonderful mother. So you don't need to doubt yourself anymore."

All of this, compiled with a particularly low day with Joey, inspired me to write a story for him, and for all my children. If you'd like, you can read it here, but the gist is, a naughty little boy announces to his mother that he wants a new mommy, and during the night, he dreams he goes to a land where children choose their mothers. Since he has put his mother up for the taking, all the children want her, and he realizes he doesn't want to give her up after all.

As Joey has grown, I've learned that he isn't really the sort of boy who needs such a dramatic warning. I know he would never trade me. It is Noah, however, who could use a reminder now and again. Noah, filled with the stubbornness and emotional-ness of his mother, fights with a passion and determination that I believe is probably unmatched by anybody. Nearly incapable of ever giving in, he says to me often, "I want a new life, and a new mother." He does usually do a take-back later on, when the event is a safe distance away in his memory of another time (usually a whole hour or so), but it doesn't stop him from casting the same stone the next time he feels angry.

The other night, I had to be somewhere, which meant it was Daddy's turn to put the boys to bed. Every night we read together, and Daddy thought it would be special if he loaded up a copy of my old story, the one I wrote about Joey, and read it to the boys. Especially to Noah.

When I came home later on, and the boys were asleep and the house was blissfully silent, I asked, "Did everything go okay?"

Joe gave me a withering look, and then proceeded to explain what he had done. "Big mistake," he said. "At first Noah thought it was funny, since it was Joey's name in the story, and so Joey who was being bad. But once he realized what the story was about, he started crying. All he wanted was you. He was afraid you wouldn't come back." Yeah. Probably because that very afternoon, he'd cursed me and shouted to anyone who would listen that, again, he wanted a new mother.

The next morning, before my eyes were truly ready to open, I woke to the sound of sniffling over the monitor. "Sniff, sniff!" I heard. And, "I just want my mother. I just love her so much. But I sent her away, and she might never come back."

I am not a morning person, but I'm also not an evil one. I pulled myself out of bed, careful not to wake Joe, and climbed the stairs to Noah's room. I pushed open the door, and found him sitting on the edge of his bed, legs dangling. He looked up at me with wet eyes that sparkled in the glow of his nightlight. 

"Mommy?" he asked, wiping his cheeks. "I was afraid you'd never come back. I just want you so much."

I went to his bed, hugged him tight, and said, "Well, you chose me, baby boy. And you know what? That makes me the luckiest mommy in the whole world."

Happy Birthday to the little boy who chose me. You changed my life, but I wouldn't have it any other way. 

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