Note to readers: With Mother’s Day approaching, this excerpt from my collection of essays seems befitting. Much love to all the mamas out there. I feel your pain…
I am a twenty-something mother of two when my oldest son starts school. He meanders onto the playground and into the whirling sea of child-monsters who are howling and flailing on the concrete in front of the building. I am air-starved, despite the cool breeze that is playing inside our shirts as if we are hand puppets.
This is one of those slow-motion moments in which a data file of emotions — heartbreak, fear and anxiety — downloads into my consciousness. I feel it all sink in as I watch his petite body, sporting new jeans and a collared shirt, swimming in the bulk of his backpack. He is going somewhere I cannot go, and I don’t feel light or free. I am not leaving him with a trusted sitter for an evening of cartoons and fruit snacks. He is on the threshold of a life in the real world, a crude-blade world with xenophobia, loaded guns and the dog-maimed faces of meth.
I feel my hand squeeze his a little tighter. I watch him pull free and march away like a battery-operated toy. I’d stocked his cartoon backpack with all of the requisite items: 2-ply Kleenex, a pack of sharpened pencils, wide-ruled paper, a box of crayons and all of the essentials on the kindergarten list. But these things are not enough. If I fold myself up like origami, I could find a spot in that backpack.
Panic forms a clot in my throat and I consider taking him home, walking him right back to our house where he belongs because he is not ready for school.
Still, I know the truth is that he is plenty ready — and I am not.
I hadn’t anticipated it being so hard, had not imagined I would be one of those nervous moms. I am an off-brand diaper mom, a cereal-for-dinner mom. But somehow a sharp prong of fear has perforated my sanity and strung me up like a largemouth bass, leaving me writhing from within.
I stand on the playground, watching him integrate, watching him enter a world I will never fully know, swirling with new faces, activities and ideas. The bell rings and he looks back for a moment, his eyes steady and firmly saluting their goodbye.
My youngest son and I walk home, his pudgy legs stomping on the sidewalk because he is a boy who insists on doing everything hard, hammer-like. He is three years old and soon he will leave me too. He will march away and not look back, a kindergarten robot ready to assert his independence. Tears are coming as I think of this, and the sky begins to bellow. We have several blocks left till home, and I feel a cool cascade of rain. In an instant, we are saturated, slogging our limp jeans and waterlogged tennis shoes down the street. My little boy squeals, shoots his hands in the air and says, “Run, mama.”
“No baby,” I say. “Let’s go slow.”
~ Excerpt from Rica’s forthcoming collection of essays: Petals of Rain.