I was snooping around Facebook the other day and I found myself looking at photo’s of my first boyfriend’s littlest sister. You know how that goes: one minute you’re just gonna peek at your feed and the next you’re staring at the intimate life details of someone you last saw 36 years ago.
The last time I saw Mary, she was an adorable four-year-old that wouldn’t leave me alone with my boyfriend. Now, I’m looking at a young mother with three beautiful boys of her own.
She, of course, has no idea that I am invading her privacy, nor does she know that one of her photos brings tears to my eyes.
She is standing on a dock and her boys crowd next to her for the shot. She casually drapes her arms around the oldest two on both sides of her, as the youngest squeezes into the middle. Her right hand is the one that does me in: she has it resting on her middle boy’s shoulder and both of his hands have reached up and are grasping hers. His right hand is holding her wrist and with his left he has intertwined his fingers with hers. He is reaching for her with both hands. A simple thing. A natural impulse. Probably an average day for this Mom and her boys.
It makes me want to tell her.
I want to make sure she knows how special that grasp is.
And how fleeting.
Oh, her boy will always love his Mama, but the uninhibited instinct to blend his flesh with hers -the need of that little boy (that can feel so ironically oppressive to a young mother), that is a flash. A bright, blinding flash.
Why does so much have to come at once? Why so much need and so much love that the sweetness can be too intense at times- like a thick layer of frosting on a double-rich cake. Why can’t we spread it out and save some for those moments for when we need it most: for when that boy asks you not to kiss him goodbye at school anymore or when his hand pulls away as you reach for it in the parking lot or when it’s not there at all anymore, because that hand no longer needs to be intertwined with yours.
When I was 41, I found out we were having twin boys. I already had three boys and a little girl. I had plenty. Yet, there they were, growing inside me. I wasn’t quite sure I wanted two more boys-or any more kids of any kind- but for me there was no choice; they were a gift bestowed upon me and I would do my best to accept it with grace.
Sometimes it feels like I get a second chance at mothering. The first time around, while I loved my small boys fiercely, I simply didn’t know.
I didn’t know that one day they would stop grasping. I didn’t know that one day their physical need for me would end, and mine for them would go on forever.
So I was given the precious gift of two more little boys. Other women my age stopped having babies at the reasonable cut-off date. Their boys (like my two oldest) have their own independent lives by now. The women tell me they can’t imagine doing bedtime stories or a first-grade field trips all over again.
I know what they mean, and I sometimes wonder if I’m going to make it myself.
But then a small hand reaches for mine
and we both hold on tight.