Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Gifts




In response to the prompt, The Gift, from Writer's Island:












Brendan, my first-born, arrived on Father’s Day – an appropriate gift. He was a tiny, pink, frowning replica of his father. His head was covered with a thatch of golden curls and his blue eyes had the intensity of a summer sky. He would gaze at me so long and questioningly as he nursed that I would have to look away or cry. I loved him wildly. I still do.

He was an inquisitive child, and a happy one until the first day of school. I opened the front door at mid-morning to find him crying on the doorstep. He had walked the mile home from school at recess. His teacher called in a panic when she couldn’t find him. As I walked him back to school, he solemnly explained to me, “Six hours is far too long for a child my age to be away from his mother.” No kidding.

When he was seven, I put him on the bus to Boston with a chum from school. They were going to visit the friend’s grandfather and Bren was beside himself with excitement. I was beside myself with worry. In his suitcase I packed Sammy Sock, his favorite toy, thinking that it would help him be less homesick if he had something familiar with him. When he came home two days later, he confided that he had been having a wonderful time until he opened his suitcase to get his pajamas. Seeing Sammy made him so homesick he couldn’t sleep. It was an important lesson – never presume your child feels the way you do.

As Bren grew, he seemed to stretch. Always thin, he soon towered over me like a young sapling. I remember a day I was scolding him over some trivial thing. He looked down fondly on my upturned frown and said, “What did you say, Shorty?”

Incensed, I dragged a chair over and stood on it, forcing him to look up at me. The absurdity of it struck us both at the same time and we collapsed in a giggling heap.

My second son was born a year and a day after his brother. For the first two days of his lfe he was known as Baby because his dad and I couldn’t agree on a name. Finally in desperation I began reading aloud from What to Name Your Baby. When I got to Kenneth, I looked down at baby. He looked back and gave me a ghost of a smile. I didn’t care what we called him as long as I got to keep him. I loved him wildly. I still do.

Ken was a rugged little boy with a mop of yellow curls and a mischievous grin. He liked to move fast and climb high. When he was two I went into the kitchen one morning to find him sitting Buddha-like on top of the refrigerator. When he was five, a neighbor called in a dither because she’d seen him climbing among the branches of a huge pine in her front yard. I strolled over to fetch him.

“Hi Mom,” he called from his hiding place twenty feet up.

When he was old enough to get his driver’s license his standard excuse for a speeding ticket was, “But my car just goes too fast.”

Jennifer was born two months after Ken’s first birthday. Her hair was as soft as swan’s down, her eyes the color of violets. Her brothers adored her. I loved her wildly. I still do. She was enchanting – a butterfly child who sang to herself every morning while waiting to be lifted from her crib. One Christmas, my mother came to spend the holiday with us. She brought a miniature Christmas tree trimmed with blinking lights for the kids’ room. Before going to bed she plugged the cord into the socket. She woke to find Jennifer sitting on the foot of her bed, watching the lights blink on and off, on and off. “Isn’t it pretty, isn’t it nice?” piped Jen. We still say that when entranced by some unexpected beauty.

Jen loved being center stage. “Watch me dance!” she cried at age seven, pirouetting around the dance studio. “Watch me twirl!” she sang at twelve, throwing her baton high in the air. “Watch me do cartwheels!” she yelled from center field during half time. “Hear me sing!” she crooned, standing in front of a microphone at her high school graduation. Where did this extrovert come from, I wondered.

Cassie, the caboose baby, was as sturdy as Jen was elfin. She had the same golden hair and wide blue eyes as her siblings, and a deep, throaty chuckle. The day she was born, my father stood over her examining her fingers and toes. “Look,” he said, “at her perfect little fingernails, her perfect little feet. Every time, it’s a miracle.” I loved her wildly. I still do.

“Don’t see me Mommy,” was her favorite admonition growing up. She was an intensely private and self-reliant child. “Born old,” people said of her and it was true. She seemed to possess some ancient wisdom that gave her an enviable self-assurance. When she was thirteen, I put her on an airplane flight from Vermont to California where she was to meet my sister. From there they would fly down under, spending the summer backpacking through Australia and New Zealand. I got dizzy every time I imagined the soles of her feet meeting mine from the other side of the earth. “Dear Mom,” one bloodstained letter began. “I can write now that my cuts are almost healed…” Of the two of us, she was (and is) the one with admirable aplomb.

Because of them my life is enriched beyond measure. I loved them wildly. I still do.

16 comments:

Becca said...

Your wonderful words brought so many of my feelings about my own son to the surface. There is nothing that compares to the gift of children, and you described it perfectly.

meggie said...

Ah! What a lovely post! I too, love my children wildly. Always will. And the grandchildren are just another gorgeous blessing to love even more wildly.

Ruth D~ said...

This is special. Very special. Your kids will love to read this when they have kids of their own. Such cute blondies.

kimberley said...

The first thing I thought when I saw the picture was: these children are like drops of golden sunlight.

They are blessed with a mother who possess a wild heart.

riseoutofme said...

As usual, Pauline, a TREAT to visit you.

Our children are our very life's blood. I sometimes wonder if we could redirect some of that love, what difference it would make in the overall balance of things .....

gautami said...

Thanks for giving us this gift of a post!

Paul said...

Good description, I can picture them. One thing about working with young children for so long that struck me was, while there's no separating out nature from nurture, there is for sure a lot of nature. Kids seem to have their own personalities, or at least definite predispositions, from the beginning.

Hann said...

Oh this is just so wonderfully nice, I even have tears in my eyes. How lucky are 'we' to call you mum ;-)
Pauline, I hope you print one for each child, they are truly blessed with a mother like you. I so want more kids now LOL, but finances these days made us stick to the wonderful 3 we have.
So true how different they are, I can tell the same of my little troopers.

keith hillman said...

What a beautifully tender piece. I enjoyed every second that it took me to read it.

Pauline said...

becca: they are the best bits of my life

oh yes meggie! I have grands too and adore them! Wildly!

ruth - they all have copies...

kimberly - I love drops of golden sunlight and it is how I will think of them from now on :)

oh rise - just think!

gautami - and thank you for stopping by :)

I agree, Paul

Big hugs Hann-

keith - so glad you stopped by and left a comment. your blog is a new favorite

Clare said...

Hi Pauline! I hope your kids have read this -- it is so filled with love and each child's unique qualities. What an incredibly beautiful tribute! And I loved the continuity when for each kid you wrote "I loved him/her wildly. I still do." This was so cool.
:)

Steve said...

It will never cease to amaze me how many wonderful writers the world has.

Mother of Invention said...

How beautifuly reflective and it is easy to feel your gratitude for the precious gifts of children.
I know I must have really missed out on something not having had kids and it does make me yearn for them, but healthwise, it was just not in the cards.
Maybe I impacted the kids I taught in a special way though.

Patti said...

oh my goodness - mother love. To know and love your children so intimately is indeed a gift. I wiped a tear away, it reflected how I feel about my own children so well.

Barbara said...

It's nice that you can appreciate the uniqueness of each child. As a parent is it impossible not to compare your children, but being able to understand and accept those differences is essential!

Marion said...

This is the most heartbreakingly beautiful love letter to your children. What lucky kids, to have you for a Mom!