Lying awake at 4 this morning, courtesy of this adventure called menopause, it dawns on me that this weekend I become an “older mother.” No, (and regrettably) I’m not having a baby. My firstborn is turning thirty! Thirty: to my mind the age at which we are fully adult. So, even though my five sons have all been in their twenties for the past few months, it is just now that I reach this milestone of becoming an older mother. Which is supposed to mean I’ve acquired some wisdom over these past 30 years plus 9 months.
Instead of reviewing what I’ve learned, my mind parades before me a kaleidoscope ofimages: a nurse at our university town’s health clinic sporting a multicolored boutonniere of condoms on her lapel telling me I had just made her day by greeting her news that my pregnancy test was positive with joy instead of a request for an abortion referral; the awestruck realization deep in my soul a few days later on a bus to my final semester of college classes which I could barely keep myself from shouting out loud-I’m going to be someone’s mother, no wait, I am already someone’s mother; the emergency trip in the blizzard because after 46 hours of labor in our home-birth , there was meconium in the amniotic fluid and I wanted my baby to have medical care right away, just in case; the ring of fire as I pushed him out in a cold, sterile triage room which nonetheless was the space in which I become fully myself and learned I could do anything at all.
Then in the pre-dawn light, I saw this baby grown to little boy flushing a bath toy down the toilet to learn what would happen and that same little boy at 28 months coming to the bed where I birthed his little brother with one of his first orders to me, “Mommie, nurse my baby, nurse my baby!” The parade of images continued with my three year old coming out of Lake Michigan one summer afternoon and announcing that he needed to start school that Fall, it couldn’t wait another year as previously planned. He learned to read and loved learning everything that crossed his path. He was (and still is) unstoppable.
I saw him as a bossy big brother to the four younger brothers that invaded his world one at a time, (he was so sweet and gentle with them as babies and toddlers-we have a video of him gently explaining to Boy #4 how to play Jurassic Park with plastic dinos and building blocks,) then as a rabid book-devourer turning into serious high school student, then learning along with me how to fill out college applications, submit essays and practice for admission interviews. I saw him in cap and gown and me crying for six months after he left for college (the first extended time we’d been apart, as he had been educated at home) and then graduating from college, sure he knew his future. Next I remembered the feeling of wonder I felt as he toured us around the Pentagon where he worked in counter- intelligence, him pledging his forever love to the woman of his dreams at his beautifully elegant wedding , and later him touring us around the rather ugly Herbert Hoover FBI building after he finished at Quantico. Lots of extreme living and extreme sports in between all those images: the phone call from his skiing buddy while my son rested from an accident in a Gettysburg hospital; emails from his international-studies coordinator with news about how safe he was at Hebrew University (where he studied Arabic one semester) during one of the Israeli wars with Lebanon and how the suicide bomber on the university campus didn’t really mean to detonate his bombs but they had to close the campus that day, . Finally, the parade of images came to a halt: my son in his new home on Capitol Hill, a home decorated carefully, a mesh of his style and his wife’s, very different from mine, explaining his Metro route to Georgetown Law and our phone call last month while he was on his way to pick up his diploma.
All of these images are my son, from fuzzy ultrasound to cutest-baby-ever-born, to beautiful lad with intelligent green eyes, to handsome athletic man who looks like his maternal grandfather. He is forever inscribed on my soul, literally a part of my DNA.
My son is a man. An adult. He seldom asks for advice, but when he does, it’s not rhetorical. He wants to know what I think. I try not to offer unsolicited advice. He understands this world he has inherited. Not better than I do, but not with less wisdom. My son, always comfortable in his own skin, is comfortably an adult. One thing I’ve learned about mothering is this: love them fiercely, give them what they need and hold them with open hands. It is not true that they are always your babies. You both grow up. It has been a blessed privilege and an immeasurable pleasure. I am one happy, older momma.