(The photo is one of my mother and I when I was a little less than two years old.)
In honor of Mother's Day on Sunday, I'd like to share a gift with you that I got from my own mother. It's a moment in time that has stayed with me my entire life, has shaped who I am, and has helped me through some potentially rough times in my own experience as a mother.
I was 3 1/2 years old and we were moving again. This time to Germany from South Dakota. (My father was in the military.) I don't remember if everything was packed yet, but I do remember that the pictures were all off the walls including my mother's prized almost life sized Elvis clock. My mother was pregnant with my little brother and she was lying on the ground, my father stretched out beside her. I sat across from them. I remember that they were both in a good mood and the only light was from a lamp. My mother's hair (normally a brownish color) was glowing reddish in the light and my father had taken off his glasses (which is rare . . . like me, he is completely nearsighted and needs his glasses for everything). My mother was wearing a torquoise sweat suit and my father was wearing his fatigue pants and his undershirt. If I close my eyes, I can almost see how young they were and I can almost reach out and touch their happiness, it was so palpable. Most of my memories of my parents when they were younger are of their joy with one another.
Still, I probably would have no memories of that night if the following had not happened. It was almost bedtime and I am sure that I was arguing that I absolutely did not want to go to bed. (After all, I never did want to go to bed.) I'm sure the comment arose organically, but try as I might I can never recall what exactly was the impetus to which my mom was responding. What I do remember is this: She turned to me, fixed her bright green eyes on me and said, "You know, Shawna, there will never be another moment exactly like this. You shouldn't push it away by being angry. You should fix it in your memory and enjoy it."
I said something to the effect of "bedtime comes every night" and she said, "Bedtime may come every night, but this moment, right now, will never come again. There may be many like it, but there will never be this one again. You have to enjoy the moment while you can, because once it's gone, it's gone forever."
I remember I wanted to argue with her, but then I thought about what she said. I thought about bedtimes and how even if you did everything the same, even if you read the same stories and wore the same clothes, something would always be different because it would be a different day. You would be a day older. The thought awed me. I'd never thought of time as something that passed never to come again, as something that you should try to hang on to. I told myself that I would remember everything about that moment because a memory was all I would ever have of it and that is why I remember what we were doing and what my parents looked like that night. The years have softened the details and even some of the exact words, but I have stubbornly clung to all that I could of that night that I learned that there will never be another moment like now.
Whenever I catch myself feeling overwhelmed by life or motherhood, whenever I catch myself wishing away the present or anxious for the future to happen, I try to revisit that moment when I first learned just how fragile and transitory time is.
Frequently, remembering that lesson has given me a chance to really embrace moments in motherhood that I may have otherwise thrown away. For example, when my son was about ten months old, he started wanting to give me kisses as he was supposed to be nursing to sleep at night. He'd nurse until I thought he was almost asleep and then he would suddenly pop off, open his eyes and sit up to kiss me on the nose or mouth. It sounds cute, but he wouldn't just do it once or twice, he would do it like twenty times. Around the seventh or eighth time, I'd start thinking to myself, "alright kid, seriously, you need to sleep," but then I would remember my mother's words and I would try to treasure the moment knowing that even if there were going to be more moments like it, that kiss, that moment was only going to happen once and it was up to me to embrace it and remember it. The phase passed and almost every night a part of me wishes that it would come back. (After all, who can ever have enough sweet baby kisses?) It hasn't and it won't (although, if I'm lucky, another, similar phase will happen again one day), but I can rest assured that I embraced every kiss he wanted to give me as the irreplaceable moment in time it was. My mother taught that to me and one day, I hope I'll find the moment and the words to teach it to my son. I also hope that you can take my words and they can remind you of when you first learned this lesson. Let it anchor you, the way I try to let it anchor me. Don't let the river of time wash away your irreplaceable moments Thanks, mom and Happy Mother's Day.
Anyone who is reading this, are there tender moments you'd like to share (either with your mother or your children)? Please, feel free. I'd love to hear them!