I was driving home from the stables after riding my horse one day, and passed two young mothers pushing their strollers. They appeared to be genuinely happy and in the moment, chatting and walking, with their bundles of love in front of them.
My first reaction? "Thank goodness, that's over with!" I had raised two children, a boy and a girl, twenty-three and twenty-two-years-old, respectively, and now I have some peace and quiet to do what I want: paint, write music, ride my horse, and tend to the garden. Yes, I am glad those days are over with and I don't have to run here and there and worry about every little thing.
It's just my heart that pushes them in their strollers nowI walked into the quiet house and heard my husband rustling around downstairs. I walked into the living room and was about to sit and play the piano, a piano I had wanted almost my whole adult life, and had finally gotten when I turned fifty. I looked at the shiny black piano. I looked at all the photos sitting on top of it and around the various pieces of furniture. Lifetimes captured and framed; my late mother, grandparents, friends who have come and gone, but mostly, pictures of my children. My children captured at practically each stage of their lives, from infancy to adulthood. Their eyes, their smiles, their looks, their styles, and I realized that nothing had changed at all. I still love them as passionately as I did on that first day I brought each of them home from the hospital. It's just my heart that pushes them in their strollers now, as I gaze lovingly at them, all the time.
And, no, you never stop worrying about your grown-up children. And yes, you learn, by trial and error, how to live in the in-between moments of their comings and goings. These children, that G‑d so lovingly let you have, to love and raise so that they may grow and stand tall like the trees that were once young saplings, their roots are with you, but it is you who has taught them to branch out and leave. (Pardon the pun.)
It's not easy mixing out. It's not easy mixing in. They are autonomous. They are self-sufficient. If you've done your job right, they are. And yet we have this need, or I have this need, for them to still need to need me. I mean after all, my son still schleps his laundry home, from his apartment downtown way out to the suburbs, to the house he grew up in. I am sure there are washing machines in his building.
My daughter, who used to dress up in my clothes and play with my make-up, as I did with my mother's, now comes over and takes my clothes and my make-up and a few baubles of jewelry, and a book or a painting for her latest apartment. She keeps asking for my vintage guitar. To that, I always say no. I used to ask my mother for her vintage diamond ring. She always said no. I wear it proudly now, once in awhile, but that's another story, a story of this adult child who still loves and misses and needs her mother.
They say, "They grow up so fast." I say, "Not so fast." I seem to remember everything. I can still smell the smells of the baby powder, and the bags packed for camp, and the smell of the late evening summer air as I waited for either one of my babies to come home from a party or a get-together with friends. On their own. Without me or their father.
Adult children. An oxymoron. A paradox. A reality.Yes, I can still feel their joy when we chose our first puppy and how they ran home from camp when our cat had kittens. I knew that at least I had helped instill the joy and value of new life to nourish and love. I know their love and their hearts. I feel their fears and their sorrows. And yes, mothers know. And we have to know when to let go. It's a constant process, like watching them learn to walk; from crawling, to toddling, to walking, and running. And now, I think back to all the baby steps I had to take, to let them go out on their own. Pain and pride live side by side when your children are now viewed by the rest of the world as their own persons. They no longer or never really did belong to you, anyway. So I tell myself.
Adult children. An oxymoron. A paradox. A reality. A surreal evolution of life that you continuously are a part of, but apart from. Quite the trick. A trick that none of us masters. And why would we want to? It is not important that we are now satisfied to get on with our own lives after we have changed a thousand diapers, worried countless nights, laughed the loudest, and cried the most over everything and anything our children elicited from our beings. No, we are inextricably tied to our children in body and spirit, and the sheer beauty of this indelible imprint on our soul is deeper than time and only gets stronger with every experience.
When my son was a toddler and I bathed him, I never wanted him to be cold. So, from the moment I got him undressed, to the time I lifted him out of the bath, there was a towel ready and waiting. We called this "the magic way." Eighteen years later, he was over at the house and was changing into a fresh t-shirt after gelling his hair. "Mom, can you help me get this t-shirt on without messing my hair? You know, 'the magic way?'"
Some things never change. The four seasons. The four directions. The hands on the clock. The rising of the sun and the moonlight in the trees. Mothers are here forever. Their children will always be their children. We intersect throughout the four corners of the world. They are our world and we will always be a part of theirs. And one day they will have children of their own. And on that day…..a new mother will be born.