Last week my water filter leaked into the storage bin where my youngest’s childhood mementoes are kept. I brought it upstairs and spread her things out to dry. Onesies, footie pajamas, overalls with ripped-out knees. Her high school graduation cap. Notebooks filled with book reports and drawings and journal entries. Cards she’d written to me, mostly construction paper drawings along with I love you mom. The arc of eighteen years spread out on the kitchen table and counters. The tiny quilt I made for her before she was born and which she wore to literal shreds was damp, and I picked up the strands and held them to my heart.
The day my first baby was born was the day I knew true terror. What if something happened to him? That terror only grew when his sister was born, and again when my second daughter entered my life. There’s no way around that terror. All you can do is learn to live with it. That’s the price of love. I’m thinking now of daughters and sons and mothers stretching into infinity, all of them holding tight to some version of a blanket.
For My Daughter on Her Twenty-First Birthday, by Ellen Bass
When they laid you in the crook
of my arms like a bouquet and I looked
into your eyes, dark bits of evening sky,
I thought, of course this is you,
like a person who has never seen the sea
can recognize it instantly.
They pulled you from me like a cork
and all the love flowed out. I adored you
with the squandering passion of spring
that shoots green from every pore.
You dug me out like a well. You lit
the deadwood of my heart. You pinned me
to the earth with the points of stars.
I was sure that kind of love would be
enough. I thought I was your mother.
How could I have known that over and over
you would crack the sky like lightning,
illuminating all my fears, my weaknesses, my sins.
Massive the burden this flesh
must learn to bear, like mules of love.