Thursday, December 30, 2010

That Day in May

It almost feels like a sacred day, looking back, like my one, unfettered day of blissful motherhood. It came as a surprise, which it shouldn’t have. It was the eleventh of May, and our baby had been due six days earlier. I had been to see the midwife that Friday, the 9th, and I had heard the little heart pounding over the doppler. My non-stress test was scheduled for the following Wednesday. The truth of the matter, which was absolutely beyond my comprehension, was that sometime in the next week I would be having a baby, one way or another. The journey was about to begin.

When I woke up that Sunday morning, it did feel like a Sunday like any other. I knew it was a special day for some people, but I hadn’t thought to consider myself among them-- not yet. And so it was to my great surprise when I came downstairs and found my husband in our living room with a small, wrapped gift.
Happy Mother’s Day, he said, and handed it to me.

I blushed, smiled. It hadn’t occurred to me that he might honor me on this day. I’d mused about the adorable possibility of our baby being born on this day, but I hadn’t ever actually considered the blatant fact of my own motherhood.

Still smiling, head down, I carefully opened the wrapping paper and found that it was from the jeweler downtown. Lifting the lid on the little box, I discovered a pair of ever-so-thin, delicate gold hoop earrings, about 3/4 of an inch in diameter. Right away, I knew they were just the accessory for the busy new mother-- the earrings that could be worn every single day, without ever being removed or changed, comfortable to sleep in, safe to shower in, appropriate for every occasion.

But more than appreciating the beauty and practicality of this well-chosen gift, I was mostly humbled and delighted at the prospect that I had not only been given a gift for Mother’s Day, which most certainly made me feel like a mother, but had been given a thoughtfully chosen, expensive gift from a jewelry store, which made me feel like a very special mother indeed. Rising to my feet, I wrapped my arms around Greg’s neck as best I could over the swollen globe that was our daughter, and I thanked him from the bottom of my heart for honoring me on this special day. Suddenly the reality of my new identity seemed sealed, and I slipped the new earrings into my ears at once, where they would stay for over two years.

You may remember the details of what happened next, about the wonderful walk we took along the Mill River, the conversation I had with Gina about how difficult it would be if this baby were to die after I’d known her for so long, and our trip to the diner for grilled cheese sandwiches and milkshakes.

As the jukebox played our request, and Charlotte kicked along to the beat of the music, our waitress offered me a rose, in honor of Mother’s Day. For the second time that day, I beamed, realizing that this, the best part of my life, had already begun.

The rose was still alive, beautiful and full, on the kitchen table when I came home from the hospital, empty handed, empty bellied, and so full hearted I did not know where to begin. I was a mother, wasn’t I? They’d said I was only days earlier, when it had all seemed so real, and tangible. But now, but now....

I wore the earrings for years, knowing I had birthed her in them, knowing they stood for what I held most dear: my motherhood. I don’t remember when I changed them for the first time, only that after some years had passed I started to occasionally take them out for special occasions, again trying on a pair of antique pearls or a funky pair of African beaded earrings I’d loved in college. It was maybe five or six years later when somehow, somewhere, one of the hoops came loose, and I found myself gazing into a mirror at home one night with only one earring there. I felt destitute, lost. I wanted it back. I had no idea where it had fallen out.

I stashed the remaining hoop in my jewelry box, hoping beyond all reason that somewhere I would find its mate someday. I never did.

Then, several weeks ago, I came across the hoop as I was reorganizing my jewelry, and I felt sad to imagine that I would never wear it again. The flush of pride and love I’d felt upon receiving the gift of those earrings came to me once again, and I wanted it with me. Could I put it on a necklace? I mused to myself, and then it came to me.

Carefully removing the emerald ring that I always wear that marries me to my firstborn, I slipped the hoop on the ring finger of my right hand, like a wedding band, and it fit perfectly. The delicate clasp fit around the back of my finger, nestling in the little space that indents when I bend my hand. I slid the emerald ring back on, and there they were: like a pair that had always meant to be worn together. The circle of motherhood, broken, but symbolic of the beauty of that day, and the emerald ring that will tie me to my firstborn every minute of my life. I worried for a moment about whether the clasp might come undone, and the earring might be lost. Then I thought of the moments when I would look down and see this ring of gold, and remember that warm May morning when everything had been perfect. Better to live with the beauty of that memory for the time the ring stays on, I reasoned, than to keep it locked in my jewelry box to be forgotten once again.

And so I wear the ring, as if it has always belonged on my finger. I look down and am tied to that moment of purity, when motherhood and joy were fused without a wrinkle. It is with gratitude that I remember those brief moment, and that day.


Pietrowski's of North Andover said...

I'm so glad you were able to tie those two together! How perfect!

Ya Chun said...

How beautiful.

I long for an innocent motherhood. Perfect, fresh, without all the heartbreak. If there is such a thing.

kris said...

Carol, this may be my favorite post of all time.

Happy 2011, my friend. What a joy-filled year it will be!

Lara said...

Wow Carol. Thank You. Beautiful the way you carry your love for Charlotte and all our babies along with your stories full of hope, grace, and tears. I agree with Kris.

Adelaide's Mom said...

Beautiful. Love it. xo

Hope's Mama said...

What a beautiful part of your story that I'm so glad you shared. And the jewellery is beautiful as well. I have a diamond ring for Hope (a very small one) but I check my finger for it at least 50 times a day I'm sure. I'd be lost without it and probably more shattered if I lost it than if I lost my wedding ring. That ring was specially designed for her.