Soft, now my knees like marshmallows, the sidewalk so hard below me, I know I will drop, crashing like the 23 story building looming behind me. I sway in the earthquake of emotion.
Strong, the bond as he holds me, his mom, towering over my weakness. Child becomes parent, small becomes big, life shifts irrevocably. I give in to the abyss of sadness that bubbles up. I’m really losing my baby.
Common, this rituals plays itself out in dorm rooms and concrete school hallways across the continent today. But mine is different, I convince myself, mine is special, mine is my whole life that has led up to this moment! No one can possibly understand. No mother has felt this crushing pride of loss.
Buried, deep in the smell of his cotton t-shirt, I cannot face the world or the truth. I have grown up with this man, this boy, this child of mine.
Floating above myself now, I see us in the airport in Ghana, 1998. My little guy and I, after a year of volunteering, are headed home to Canada for Christmas. He is 6 years old. We are so excited and anxious to get home to the family, it’s palpable. Only, as we stand at the immigration desk, there is hesitation and the officer is upset. Something is wrong. He calls a superior and ushers us aside. My boy looks up at me with those huge innocent eyes. He whispers,
“Mom? What’s wrong?”
I shrug and squeeze his hand as they lead us into a small windowless room. We have apparently overstayed our visa and there is a massive fine to pay. We are in trouble. I don’t have the money, I am at a loss as to how this happened, as our passports are held with the NGO I am working for. We are not going to make our plane. As the minutes tick by and we sit alone and silent in the pitiful room, my heart sinks. Tears stream down my face. My boy jumps up from the chair and leaps forward. He touches my cheeks gently, wiping my tears
“Mom, don’t cry. Everything is going to be ok. It will work out. We’ll be ok. Ok?”
And it was. I squeezed him so close. My heart nearly burst.
Something was arranged and we made our plane, running, hand in hand down the runway, out of breath, we boarded the plane. Everyone was annoyed at the delay. We looked at each other with a knowing… it is the bond. We’d been through another of life’s experiences together.
Spinning, I’m jolted back to now - the world around us circles, and the moment threatens to pass. Time taps my shoulder, we will have to leave. My tears will have to be dammed.
He pulls away,
“C’mon Mom, you’re gonna make me cry.”
Which only make my tears come harder. And I’ve done it. He breaks. His strong face, cracks and our bond is exposed. Emotion all over his face. It’s sealed forever.
Our song plays in my head, the guitar he strums to me in the kitchen on Saturday afternoons back home, Bon Iver:
“I am my mother's only one,
I wear my garment so it shows.
Now you know.
Only love is all maroon,
Gluey feathers on a flume
Sky is womb and she's the moon.
I am my mother on the wall, with us all
I move in water, shore to shore;
Only love is all maroon
Gluey feathers on a flume
Sky is womb and she's the moon…
Gazing, incredulous, from behind he grows smaller as he skips away into the huge building that eats him up. The car carries me limp, further and further way. In the distance, the song still serenades me. My boy has grown up and the world has him now.