When I get home from the airport, I’m hungry. I make a piece of toast and slather it with coconut oil, the way Mama does nowadays. I put it on the blue plate she left on the kitchen counter and sit in her spot on the couch. It’s my spot again.
For days I’ve cooked and entertained, squeezing in my most pressing work when Mom was sleeping or otherwise occupied. We’ve spent two straight weeks hosting visitors: first Mychal, then Mom. It’s been a blast, but I’ve felt pretty psyched to resume normalcy.
My friend Mary Anne once brought her visiting mother to a voice lesson. “My mom’s driving me crazy,” she said, “but I’m glad she’s here to drive me crazy.”
That sums it up perfectly. Time with Mom isn’t entirely easy. I long for her presence when she’s away, then when she comes my heart grows heavy. I don’t want to hear the difficulties of growing older. I don’t want her views clouding my vision.
I tell her that I long to return to Massachusetts. “What if David needs more time away?” she counters. “Young men need adventure. Better now than later.”
I tell her that I’ve been tuning in to my belly. I feel a hunger that can’t be satisfied by food, and I’m trying to lean into the feeling. “You should have a baby,” she says. “Then your belly will feel purposeful and wonderful.”
I don’t stomp my foot on the ground. I don’t roll my eyes. I tell her I don’t know if David needs more time away, but we’ve been talking through our options. I explain again all the reasons we’re waiting before we take a shot at parenthood.
My careful words don’t change the message. I’m thirty-three years old, Mom. Let me figure this out on my own.
Her final morning arrives, and tenderness catches me by the collar. She talks so earnestly about all things.
I watch her fuss with her hair. How many people gesticulate with a flat iron?
I pack snacks for her trip home. I zipper her suitcase shut. I let myself weep.
In the long embrace, our soft bellies remember their old closeness. For nine months my life grew within her, and then I had to leave. We’re both still recovering.
She flies across the country, and I re-read a favorite essay by C.J. Gall.
I can think of God only in the way that I think of a parent. Does God watch me sleep even when I’m an adult and want to touch my feet or kiss my forehead?
I remember my defensiveness, yes, but I also remember how I rubbed Mom’s shoulders before I deflated the air mattress beneath her this morning. (It’s a little challenging to get her out of bed.)
Mom and I continue to hunger with our two separate bodies, so sometimes the space between us feels as far as Philadelphia is from Wichita. But there are moments when I soften all that I think I know and feel my mother within me as surely as she once felt me within her. There are moments when I breathe her love like the love of God. I remember how lucky I am to hug her, to feed her, to deflate the air mattress beneath her.
And once she’s gone, I make my toast her way.