I had one of those epic, solo car drives today on the threshold of Mother’s Day, my mind awash, all cylinders firing, confused and overwhelmed by a flood of BIG, contradictory feelings. The miles flew by unnoticed. Sound familiar? I’m not sure if this phenomenon comes exclusively with age, but it feels dependent on a lifetime stockpile of memory and experience. On occasion, everything rushes to the surface, demanding attention all at once.
Here’s the backdrop: I’ve just spent 24 hours with my pregnant daughter and 2 ½ year-old granddaughter, a couple of hours’ drive from my home. During my visit, little Fiona spent a half-hour performing a close examination of my face while I pretended to sleep, hoping she’d take the hint and settle for her nap. She pushed at my eyelids, stretched my mouth into smiles and frowns, examined the gray hair at my temples, all the while whispering indecipherable stories to her stuffed animals. It was kind of like having a baby raccoon explore your physiognomy with its little padded fingers. At last, draped over me, her breathing slowed and she went quiet. I didn’t dare move for several minutes, but eventually slid myself out from under her little round arms and watched her sleep. Heaven.
Later that night, Nellie marched into the room with a tray full of goodies – flowers, a Mother’s Day card, chocolate-covered almonds, and her cell phone with a live Zoom feed featuring all my other children (two of them expecting babies). Surprise! Happy Mother’s Day Mama! There were those four, dear faces, sending love. I’ll be out of the country on Sunday, unable to receive calls, so their timing moved me and my heart swelled with gratitude. How can anyone be so lucky?
And yet…what’s up with that other cascade of emotion that surged forth as I pulled away from Portland this morning after leaving Fiona at daycare? It felt a lot like grief. What the heck?
Well, maybe it’s all about the passage of time. The last time I got to be with my own siblings and our wonderful mom on Mother’s Day was 2013. My children haven’t lived with me since 2011; they are all starting families of their own. Fiona is no longer a tiny packet of softness that sleeps quietly on my chest; she is a small person with a mind exploding with daily discoveries, becoming herself, gaining independence. Time is skipping along, leaving my past steadily further behind. The miles hurtling away behind me seemed to represent all the years gone by, emphasizing the distance growing between me and what used to be.
Oh yes, I celebrate life’s tenacity! Oh the wonder of it – how it goes on blossoming, evolving, changing! But at the same time, my own life experiences are receding in the rearview mirror along with my husband’s hairline. We’ll do our best to keep up, but our obsolescence is inevitable, one of the few certainties in a world of unknowns.
How do we navigate this world so teeming with rapture and grief, becoming and fading away? We embrace it all, I suppose. We make room for the new and carry our histories along for the ride, as long as little fingers continue to explore, as long as our hearts continue to beat.
Robin Clifford Wood is a writer and writing teacher. She lives in central Maine with her husband and dogs, loves to be outdoors, and enjoys ever-expanding horizons through her grown children and their multi-species families.