On Mother’s Day, 2010
One of the most precious things to me is the gentle, loving, intimate voice of a mother in communication with her child. This voice is sometimes audible, sometimes unheard by anyone else, sometimes not even heard by the child. Sometimes it’s a voice of words, sometimes one of deeds. It is a form of communication that speaks as much to the mother as it does to the child. It is a mysterious speech, a multilayered kind of intonation that expresses love and hope and encouragement.
Right now I’m sitting 20 feet away from my wife, Alison, and our first child, Miranda. Her birth just 10 days ago was amazingly wonderful. Yet perhaps it was not the most amazing transmutation that occurred. You see, many times before giving birth, Alison would write to Miranda, speak to her, sing to her, hum to her. In these things Alison was experiencing a transformation into mom-ness. The state of being motherly, of extending unconditional love, of earnest, joyful support for that child, was becoming manifest in her character and nature. Yes, she was always wonderful with children; now she was becoming a mom.
I remember a few weeks early on in her pregnancy when Alison started to really inhabit her mom-ness. What happened was that for several weeks, during the early morning hours between 4 and 5 am, Alison – totally asleep – would sing to her unborn child. Well, sing isn’t really the right word. It was sing-humming, a kind of spontaneous melody of pure joy. It was involuntary – she was not conscious of it when I told her about it later. Yet there she was, serenading her child weeks before she would feel her, months before she could hold her. She was becoming a mom, then and there. It was beautiful. I think it was a powerfully important thing as well: a song for growing, for knitting, for becoming. Miranda needed it, and Alison could sing it. As the only conscious witness to that sweet concert, I hope I never forget that sound.
Alison and Miranda sleeping
Thinking about this reminds me of the other mothers close to me in my life – my own mom and Alison’s mom. They’ve got their own mother powers, too.
When I was a child I was desperate for my mom’s touch before sleep. Once put down, if I awoke I would cry and cry… less from fears or needs, but rather in order to bring her to me, to have her put her hand on my back again. I wanted to have that hand lull me back to sleep with its warm, rhythmic, safe motion. My understanding is that this specific mode of soothing was a constant desire of mine; sometimes my mom would resort to placing a warm water bottle on me in place of her hand just so she could get something done in the evenings. But I love that she came again and again, sitting next to me and bringing that touch that only a mom knows how to do. This was just one of the many, many ways my mom exhibited her mom-ness toward me, built me up, gave me what only she could give.
My mom as a young woman – about my age now, I think…
My mom-in-law, Kathy, also does something only a mom can do. Well, others can do it and are supposed to, but moms do it best: selflessness. When her children are in the midst of their work, projects, fears, triumphs, and lives in general, there she’ll be, selflessly being supportive, giving of her time and energy with no thought of return. On countless occasions over the years that I’ve known her and seen her with her kids, I’ve witnessed her aid come to them. That aid took on many forms, from helping with studying or editing lengthy papers to nursing them through sickness or helping them move, these kids knew they could count on her. In a world where so many people are out for themselves, she’s rejected all selfishness, seeing her support for and encouragement of her kids as vital and necessary. And it’s totally appropriate that she exhibits that giving character so fully – there’s no support, no love, no aid like what comes from a mom.
Mom Schwei with Miranda
So today I think of all of this, and am overjoyed. I thank God for it… and there again is Alison in the other room, speaking to Miranda with a mother nature uniquely her own. I am so thankful for this goddess-voice in my wife, for the goddess-touch in my mom’s warm hand resting on my back all those times, and for the goddess-sensitivity my mother-in-law’s selflessness and constancy. Thanks Mom Bourgeois, Mom Schwei, and new Mom Ballou – I love each of you.