Tomorrow is my birthday, and today my mother sent me a box full of calla lilies. Each waxy bloom perfect, itâ€™s yellow pistil caked with pollen.
She has never sent me flowers beforeâ€”every delicate stem wrapped in cellophane---and receiving the long lovely box at the door and putting the long-necked blooms into water made me profoundly happy. It is funny that flowers can do this. So much is contained in the gesture of giving them. These flowers were saying: safety, unending love, openness.
This year I became a mother, and as a result, began to see my mother in an entirely different way. Since my father died, my mother and I have been navigating new terrain in our relationship, and it has not been without land mines. So much lies buried in the geography of our shared lives. So much love and wonder and hurt in our souls is brought to the surface when we talk, and sometimes stumbling upon each otherâ€™s every weaknessâ€”clumsily, hurtfully, without grace. But gradually we are learning to keep some things: to keep safety, to keep openness, to keep love steadfast even when we come up against these jagged edges.
So with my birthday coming tomorrow, I find myself contemplating how this day is wholly mine, and yet wholly hers as well. My birth marked a turning point in her lifeâ€”that changed everything for her. I understand this now with new wonder and appreciation. I realize the sacrifice, the worry, the frustration of motherhood that she feltâ€”and see myself in her, just as I also see how much I am her opposite.
This is the gift and the challenge of being a parent: to shepherd a little person into adulthood and then let them go to be anyone they want to beâ€”entirely unique unto themselves. My son is already, even before he can talk, totally his own personâ€”and I canâ€™t help but wonder how heâ€™ll see me throughout his life. First just as his mama, but maybe later hopefully as a source of inspirationâ€”-and maybe as the writer, the artist, the teacher and dreamer that I am. And I wonder too what he will be like throughout his life, and how I will see himâ€”-as a child first, and then later as his own person, and a source of inspiration.
Last year on my birthday I was immensely pregnant, right on the cusp of the unknown. I couldnâ€™t fathom how my life would be, and my days were heavy with a certain anxietyâ€”not to mention actual the actual heaviness of my belly. Then blink, and a year has passed, and here I am, beginning training for a marathon, in the midst of renovations on a new home, and the mother to a small boy who has started taking steps (!) towards me, eyes twinkling and arms outstretched.
Like each beautiful lily drawing drinking water from the jar, the moments of this year have been sweet and good.