The Day Before The Birth Day

Exactly 12 years ago on May 30, I was standing very pregnant at the bottom of our driveway, and about a dozen ATVs roared by, excessively fast and noisy. Within me, my baby abruptly flipped, and I pressed my hands over this baby I had yet to meet, face-to-face. The next morning, we saw each other, tiny girl infant and me.

I always think of that moment as the first time I held and comforted this daughter, wrapped my hands around her, loving her, the first time I began to know this child was mine, small being who would spend her first years in our arms.

…the poem at the end of the world
is the poem the little girl breathes
into her pillow
…this poem
is a political poem is a war poem is a
universal poem but is not about
these things this poem
is about one human heart this poem
is the poem at the end of the world

– Lucille Clifton



One rainy Saturday when I was a kid, my dad drove me and my siblings to the movie Watership Down in Manchester, New Hampshire, in an old green Commando Jeep he drove most of my childhood. On the way there, approaching an intersection, the brakes failed, and he slid through an intersection blaring his horn and flashing his lights. Under a benevolent star that day, we cruised through the red light unharmed, and my dad pulled over, doubtlessly nearly breathless with relief.

For a child, that memory remained as a flashy bit of drama. As a parent at the wheel with three kids, terrible misfortune averted. When I told my 18-year-old daughter to drive safety the other day, heading to high school or work or out with her friends to the movies, she rolled her eyes. I reiterated that I will always be your mother, so bear up, my beloved.

Today is my mother’s 80th birthday, two days after my father’s 80th birthday, both children of the Depression, with their own long lives which have touched so many people.

I think of parenting like the proverb from an old Tom Selleck movie: The ox is slow, but the earth is patient, plodding along with heavy-hooves, but overhead spreads the changing, infinite sky, the eternal constant comfort of the earth beneath our feet.

Best wishes on your birthday, mother.

…Let me congratulate you on
the birthday of your son…
You didn’t make him prosperous or famous,
and fearlessness is his only talent.
Open up his windows,
let in the twittering in the leafy branches…
Give him his notebook and his ink bottle,
give him a drink of milk and watch him go.

– Yevgeny Yevtushenko, from “Birthday”