A Mother’s Best Asset

She steps into the exam room, staring at the chart the nurse shoved into her hands and is quickly trying to assess my medical history in the 5 steps between the door and the exam table.

She looks up, squints at my forehead a wee bit too long, and then fixes her gaze just a bit lower.

“Your friends must be envious of your skin!” she proclaims, making me question either her eyesight or her medical credentials.

Possibly both.

Apparently she missed the reason for my appointment that clearly states “35-year acne sufferer” and “what the hell can I use for these wrinkles” as reasons for my dermatologist visit today.

“Um, NO,” I say, maybe a little bit too quickly. “My skin is nothing to brag about,” I add, instantly wishing I were sitting in the dental chair instead.

With nitrous oxide.

“Your neck!” she exclaims, “The skin on your neck is smooth and firm, beautiful,” she says, with a glint in her eyes that almost makes me believe her. If she wasn’t young enough to be my daughter.

Maybe she had wine with lunch.

At this point, I am forced to ponder my neck… a part of my body I have never considered as a separate entity, I guess. The biggest job my neck has is holding my head up and supporting a necklace now and then. And even then I have been known on many occasions to simply rest my head on my desk after a particularly strenuous bout of editing. So even my neck can be lazy.

My neck? Never a point of conversation until now.

My babies have nuzzled my neck after midnight feedings, when the lure of sleep called to me from the bedroom but motherhood won and I stayed just a few moments longer on the couch to drink in their sweet, milky scent. My neck has comforted a little girl with a broken arm, a boy who lost his grandfather, kids mourning the loss of their first family dog and a dear friend who lost her husband too early and too tragically. My neck snuggled my mother when she lost her husband too many years too soon and cradled my husband when he lost not one but both of his beloved grandfathers.

I have craned my neck ever-so-slightly to see if a teenager’s car has pulled up in the driveway yet… at half past 11. My neck has betrayed me with osteoarthritis and sent me to physical therapy on more than one occasion.

My neck? It may not be much to brag about, or a part of my body that my much-younger friends will envy. But this neck — my neck — has proven to be an incredibly valuable part of my anatomy that I simply take for granted most days.

“Yes,” I stammer. “My neck is amazing,” I finally say.

And I smile a little bit bigger…

In spite of the huge zit on my chin.

neck and necklacs

A Milestone Love

milestone loveThe restaurant is crowded, unusually so for a Tuesday night. The waitress lets the specials roll off her tongue as she does on any other night, and we pretend to listen even though we’ve all chosen our main courses already.

Table for four. While this happens with amazing regularity at home, we don’t often manage to sync our schedules and go out for dinner together. Old habits die hard, and I am usually just as happy making dinner and sharing it around our table.

But tonight is different.

My husband has a milestone birthday today. And while the other diners may think they are having a special meal with colleagues or friends, I feel as if there is a bubble around our table tonight.

A bubble that holds within its rounded edges the three people I hold the most dear in my heart.

A bottle of wine arrives, along with something tamer for the teens with bubbles and cherries. We raise our glasses in a toast to my husband and I catch his smile as he thanks us for spending this evening with him.

It’s magic… like all of the times I have seen this man smile, but deeper, almost. He’s in his happy place, with his family, and there is no place else he’d rather be right now.

I feel a lump form in my throat that I push aside. I don’t want to cry, don’t want to take away from his moment.

He wanted to be with us.

When people would ask, “Where are you going for the BIG birthday?” he never wavered, really. Offers of exotic beach vacations, ski lodges or weekends in Napa didn’t entice him. Sure, they all sound like fun… but he wanted more.

He wanted to be with us.

To start the second 50 years of his life with his family, to listen to our stories and laughter and bask in the glow of that kind of love that nobody else can give you.

And as I watched him raise his glass to us, to another 50 years, to our family I couldn’t help but be in awe of this man who has given me so very much. Family, unconditional love, laughter.

And he wanted to be with us.

Happy Birthday, babe… here’s to another 50.

Mirror Image

Who is this woman and what has she done with my youth?

It was just here a minute ago.

Or did I just set it down for a moment when I was at The Alibi? The Office on the Beach?

Maybe someone will turn it in to Lost and Found.

I may have taken a wrong turn at sunbathing in baby oil and spent too much time worrying and developing a scowl.

That’s the only explanation I can come up with.

I’ve tried to take good care of myself.

The younger me didn’t know how good she had it; knees that weren’t baggy, hair that didn’t require chemical intervention at six-week intervals, a jack-rabbit metabolism, and a face free of wrinkles and age spots.

This new woman? She follows me everywhere. Shows up in restaurant bathroom mirrors, reflections in the windows at Starbucks, all those fancy-schmancy mirrors in the Crate and Barrel store.

She looks a bit tired, takes longer to rise from a seated position, and her shoes may qualify as sensible.

It’s not my mother.

Because in those Crate and Barrel mirrors today? My mom was next to me on one side; my daughter beside me on the other.

There was no denying it today.

I am in that middle place.

In the middle where you can remember being your mommy’s little girl; going out shopping together or just hanging out.

Until that was no longer cool.

In the middle where you can still see the beginnings of your own motherhood journey; still remember holding those crying little ones and rocking them ever-so-gently.

In the middle where your kids become self-sufficient, busier with their own lives, less likely to need you for something.

In the middle where I can also see forward to my own mother’s life.

Kids grown, out on their own, no longer needing to worry about daily tasks of motherhood or trivial questions like peanut butter and jelly? or pink shirt or yellow?

This woman who stalks me? She’s not half bad.

She’s got a pretty good sense of humor, as long as you don’t ask her kids. She loves her family, likes a good pizza, a nice glass of wine, and plays a mean game of Scrabble.

And since she’s not going anywhere soon? I’ve come to like her.

But I still check the Lost and Found occasionally.