I took my family for a walk today – a good long one, around the lake and back, which means just over 9km. The boys rode their bikes; I walked and ran intermittently to keep up. We met up with a friend of mine and her girls – sort of a pre-Mother’s Day get together, an unspoken celebration of the fact that we have brought these strong little bodies of boundless energy into the world, and that we too feel strong. Full of energy enough to keep up with them, run after them or push them along, whatever the occasion demands. Aside from a few sprints down some hills in the woods, today was the first time I have run for anything over a minute in months and months. It felt good. It’s good to feel joy. I feel thankful. Thankful to be able to run alongside my son’s bike and laugh with him. Thankful to be able to let my muddy dog off her leash for her second and third swims of the day. Thankful that today I get to be their mother.
On a walk I did earlier in the week I talked with a friend about how good it is to feel the sun shining, and that even if it’s only been in small doses thus far, every little bit helps and everyone is starting to feel like we have our energy back. It changes the way we see things. We talked about the way the mist looked over the water, we marvelled at the juxtaposition between the water on either side of the dam we walked over. Sighed at the texture in the foam collecting on the water. Talked at some length about the different mosses growing in the concrete wall, the colour of the dead bullrushes in the swamp we passed, and rolled cedar branches between our fingers and made primal happy sounds at the smell it produced. And we laughed at how obvious it was that Spring is finally pulling us out of our ruts. Allowing us to surface a little, to breathe a little more deeply. Maybe even making us a little giddy. And I will take giddy over the way I felt a month ago, thank you very much. To be able to see my way through grief to beauty and joy is somewhat akin to sliding on that second-skin pair of jeans I thought I lost behind a dresser, or catching the scent of Oscar de la Renta in the air and flashing back to hugging my mother as a child, or reconnecting with my inhale-2-3-exhale-2-3 running pace like I did today. It’s the ‘ooohhhh I remember you’ feeling that makes my shoulders relax just a little more and yanks the corners of my mouth into a smile.
Last week a friend of mine was in town, one who has just lost her mother suddenly and who is breathing her way through that grief minute by minute, day by day. I have another who is slowly losing her mother, and who is doing an entirely different kind of grieving. For yet another friend, tomorrow will mark the first Mother’s Day without her mother. Fresh pain. These friends of mine have to be commended for their ability to see joy through their grief. I watch them do it whenever I see them, parenting, laughing, skipping rather than walking when the mood strikes. I love them for this; I know how challenging it can be. I know that they will spend their days tomorrow pushing their grief to the side so that they can mother their children and stepchildren. And it will be crushing and profoundly sad, and I will be thinking of them. I cannot fully comprehend that pain, but on some level I can relate. This Mother’s Day will be the second one that is changed for me. I remember last year wondering if it were going to be my last and being completely paralyzed by the terror that this particular reality slammed into my chest. This year I wonder the same. That’s just my new reality. But I am going to spend it filled with gratitude and I am going to make every effort to see the beauty wherever I can on my hike tomorrow with my boys, just like my beautiful friends find ways to laugh through the haze of grief.
I’m going to leave the dishes unwashed after I blissfully enjoy every morsel of the avocado and cheese on toast that my ten year old is currently concocting in his head for me. I am going to be purposefully oblivious to the war that will likely erupt between him and his brother when they compete to be the one to carry the plate upstairs to me. I am going to deliriously ignore the unmatched socks with holes in them they will likely wear even though I folded 62 pairs of socks a week ago. I will not bat an eye when my eight year old insists on wearing a bow tie and suspenders on our hike. I will pack extra marshmallows for the hot chocolate. I will not ‘hurry and miss everything’, like my youngest has, rightfully, accused me of doing. Tomorrow, I will be mindful in my making of memories with them.
When we are done our hike, I will go and see my own mother, who has had one hell of a year as a mom. She once said to me that it didn’t matter how old you were when you lost your mother, that no matter how ready you think you are to lose your mom, you are never ready. That on some level we still feel like an orphaned child when our mother leaves us, even if we are mothers or grandmothers ourselves. Tomorrow, after our hike, my boys and I will go and hug the pillar of strength that is mother to me, and Nana to them. And maybe I might hug her a little tighter this year. Because I can. And for that I am ever so grateful.