I tuck them in tonight and the hugs are just a little longer, just a little tighter and just a little sweeter. Hot breath against my cheek as I breathe in deep. That one smells like vanilla yogurt, her snack of choice. The tall one smells like Dimetap, the result of a flu bug that’s taken hold.
And the little one.
The one who turns five in less than 48 hours.
He smells like the outdoors. Dirt and sweat and bundled energy mingle and swim and it’s him that brings the knot in my gut – it’s his giggle in my ear that brings a wave of nausea. He will be in kindergarten next year. He is 42 pounds of innocence and youth. He is them. They were him.
And in a single breath, they were gone.
I wander to my bedroom and step into the closet. Gifts are shoved behind the door, waiting to be wrapped and tucked beneath the tree. Gifts that I poured over as I determined what would be the one thing that would make his eyes sparkle. I look at the gifts and I weep.
I weep for the mothers who are looking at the unwrapped gifts tonight. The gifts that will never be opened. The gifts that will remain untouched. The sparkle that will never appear again.
I weep for them.
Motherhood is a sacred kinship. It is a sisterhood unlike any other. We are different, each one of us, but when we are mothers, we are the same. We breathe our babies deep. We rock them at night and memorize the crease beneathe the chin, the freckle on the center of the nose, the cowlick on top of the head.
We trace their lips and kiss their fluttering eyes.
We sing and rock and we know each sound. We know the serious cry, the offended cry, the hurt cry and the frightened cry. We put barbeque on this plate, ketchup on that one and hot sauce on the last one because we know. When they’re knit inside our wombs, they are knit directly to our souls.
And when the sounds stop, we all weep because we feel it cut deep inside – so deep we can’t even breathe. The smells don’t fade and their voices echo in our hearts. Tonight, I listened harder, watched closer and committed it all to memory. I felt it in the depths and when the room grew quiet and the breathing of the three who hold my heart grew steady, the pain in my heart cut like a knife.
Tonight I weep for them. The mamas and the babies. The quiet that will never cease. The hearts torn wide open and laid bare. I weep for them.
And as the tears pool hot in the corners of my eyes, I whisper a prayer.
Sweet Jesus be near.
There’s no sense to be made of this. There is no policy to be set. There is no explanation that will quell the silence and the pain that floats and storms inside the quiet.
There are only tears and prayers as together we weep.
I know them. They are me and I am them.
And tonight I weep.