I Am She; She Is Me


When my son was a newborn, I found myself in urgent need of a nursing bra. Things had changed, transformations made almost overnight. I now had mountains where there were once, um, smaller mountains? (Breasts--who needs them anyway.) Since I didn’t know the size, I couldn’t just send Steve, and I didn’t want to leave my new baby, so we headed off to J.C. Penney’s. It seemed like the logical choice, for some reason, even though I’d sworn off shopping there years before. (I worked there briefly after high school, so, naturally, we were enemies.) A woman approached as I searched through the racks, her eyes slightly desperate, almost pleading. “Can I look at your baby?” “Of course,” I said. That’s what happens when you take your newborn out in public; right? Kind of like when you’re pregnant and everyone wants to touch your belly. It becomes this communal thing we share. It’s normal.

The woman bent over, peering into the combination stroller/pram, saying soft things the way a person does with a tiny baby. She straightened, and with shining eyes looked at me intently, saying, “He’s a blessing. Give thanks for him every day because he’ll be grown before you know it.” To be honest, she scared me a little, but I’ve never forgotten her, and I can still almost picture her face. Shoulder length brown hair, slender build, maybe mid-to-late fifties. Her children, I assumed, were grown. She had a story, anyway, one that involved longing and lost childhood.

I did give thanks, then, and now. Through the ordinary day-by-day of childhood. The long nights of waiting for fevers to break, the rumbly coughs, the pneumonia scare. Through the worrying, I remained grateful, trying to live in the moment as much as possible, taking mental snapshots to flip through later, cataloguing his laughter and unique sayings. Today I give thanks through the worry of long nights studying and not nearly enough sleep to sustain a human teenager. How will he survive? I ask myself. Somehow. Somehow.

College is less than a year away, and I mark time by days. In fewer than a year’s worth of days, he will leave the only home he’s ever known, our close-knit cocoon that has been comprised of the three of us, and his two Australian Shepherd caretakers/older siblings, both now gone.

I realize now that I am the woman at Penney’s. I am the woman who will look at babies, possibly scaring their mothers. I will ask them if I can take a peek, and I will see my son’s face in the faces of their newborns. Their beginnings, my continual evolution through motherhood, reconciling myself to the inevitable empty nest.

I am she; she is me. Still, I give thanks.

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