May Memories

jasmine flowerThey say that a scent has the ability to trigger a memory, to take you back to a time in the past, no matter how distant. A friend claims the mere scent of a pot of tomato sauce simmering on the stove reminds her of her Italian grandmother’s house. The logical part of my brain argues that this is silly, that these people are making these connections, but the scent couldn’t possibly be contributing.

I didn’t believe them until I smelled the jasmine.

I was at that point in pregnancy when the doctor wanted to see me every week. Same time, same day… just checking, weighing, measuring and waiting. I was already on maternity leave, spending my time lunching with friends and getting everything ready for my first baby.

The walkway from the parking lot to my doctor’s office was planted heavily with jasmine, and the soft, sweet scent became a favorite.

And that time in my life was magical. I had no idea what motherhood would bring, what challenges we would face or how incredible the joy would be. I didn’t even know if the baby I was carrying was a boy or a girl.

I just knew everything would be OK. I had this serene, calm feeling each time I walked past the jasmine, my hand resting on my stomach out of habit. Baby kicks, reminding me that he was there.

And that everything would be OK.

And now each May, when the calendar has barely folded over from April, I catch slight whiffs of it as I walk through shopping areas or past a neighbor’s house. I immediately think of my son — of the happy, freckle-faced boy who has morphed into a tall young man with a scruffy face and a morning coffee habit.

And I have realized that nineteen years later, I still have no idea what motherhood will bring in the future, much like when I wandered each week into the doctor’s office, past the jasmine. One of the cruelest facts about motherhood is that you are never truly done with the mothering, no matter how well you handled the terrible-twos or potty-training. Your services are always needed, and usually in a way you hadn’t anticipated.

Yesterday I caught it as I walked out of the store, rushing between errands and eager to get back home.

The scent of jasmine.

No baby kicks this time.

But I think everything will be OK.

Denial: A Page in my Christmas Book

The boxes are down from the attic, stacked in haphazard fashion in the garage and waiting to be refilled.

I am not ready.

For seven weeks and three days, Christmas has filled this house. Santa, baby Jesus and all of their various snowmen and reindeer friends have been happily perched on shelves, hanging from the tree or just chilling out on top of the piano.

Last night we finally took the tree down, only because the garbage man will pick it up today.

Everything else remains.

I am not ready.

Not ready for these holidays when the kids are so old that Santa’s magic no longer has any power…when nobody believes they heard reindeer on the rooftop as they snuggled in their beds.

I love our Christmas traditions — cutting down our tree at the same farm each year, decorating it together. The unwrapping of each ornament and my incessant need to tell the story of each and every one. Again.

Homemade cinnamon rolls Christmas morning…gingerbread houses carefully decorated with all-things-sugary, only to be eaten later in chunks.

I love how my teens still expect certain things to remain the same about Christmas, even without the magic of Santa.

But there was a shift this season — ever so slight — and I felt it in my heart. My family is growing and changing, and while it’s amazing and awesome and wonderful?

There are days when I would gladly take a page from my Christmas Memories Book and have a do-over.

Like the year I found out I was pregnant on Christmas morning, but kept the secret all day long as we watched our 3-year-old son open presents and laugh.

Or the year Santa brought the huge dollhouse bookcase for my daughter that was taller than she was.

Maybe the year when we sat on the couch with grandparents — all showered, ready for presents and drinking our coffee — while little ones somehow slept way past their usual wakeup time.

This book — my Christmas Memories Book — has one page left.

One page.

Nineteen years of these memories fill this book and flood my heart when I open it.

And now? I need to fill in that one last page.

I am not ready.

I will buy another book — maybe even another with 20 years to fill. And I will cherish each page as they are filled with the new memories of our growing family…a family that will still hold dear to old traditions while the kids bring in something new each year. A friend, someone special, a spouse one day, maybe a grandchild or two.

I think I will be ready by then.

Eighteen blinks

Nobody warns the mothers about the time.

Those hours and days that seem like they will never end.

The errands, the preschool drop-offs, outgrown shoes, skinned knees, play-dates, mac and cheese, playground woes, spilled milk, bad haircuts, and kindergarten projects made of beans and glitter. The hormones, driving lessons, AP tests, cramming for finals, outgrown jeans, messy rooms, mac and cheese, and sleeping until noon.

Endless time, years of it.

The time that passes so quickly…that slips through your fingers somewhere between diaper duty and senior awards night.

When they placed you in my arms all those years ago, you should have had a warning label.

Handle with care. Love unconditionally. Caution: will melt your heart.

Warning: Object in your arms will grow more quickly than it appears.

Eighteen years passes so very quickly.

Eighteen blinks later, you sit across the kitchen table from me… coffee cup in hand, reading the newspaper. This, this is what years of parenting lead to? A scruffy-faced young man with principles and ideals and morals and thoughts all his own? No longer to be shaped by my influence or advice?

This was exactly what I was supposed to do. I mothered, I cuddled, I talked and I listened.

And then I took a backseat.

I am so very proud of the young man you have become, and look forward to the years ahead as you grow and shape yourself even more into a young adult.

But this nagging feeling that there must be something I forgot to do with you still persists deep inside.

So forgive me if I invite you for an ice cream, pour you a cup of coffee, challenge you to a game of Scrabble, buy you a silly book, ask you about dinosaurs, offer you a ride on my shoulders or touch your thick wavy hair when I walk by.

I might not be finished with this mothering gig after all.