My back has been aching lately; a dull sense of soreness from the top of my neck down to the lower part of my waist. At first the only logical place to lay blame would be our mattress. As those inciting radio commercials remind you every morning on your drive out of the holler that you need a new mattress every eight years, you quickly calculate how much a queen size mattress would break the bank, then you calculate how much your family loves groceries, and you decide then and there that eleven years is still a young mattress. It is practically new, still working out some of its kinks itself.
Upon waking from that brand new, still in the plastic mattress and breathing in the dark of a full house, yet void of sound, I sneak quietly into the rooms of our children to help them welcome the fresh day ahead. Our sons have shared a room for several years now, so once I crack open the door to allow light to peek in from the blaring glow of the hallway bulb, I trample over legos, stray underwear, and lone books and generally head first toward the one that seems to be slowly rising. Then all the weird things that mothers do to stop time begins: I rub their fluffy blonde hair, ruffled from a good, hard night’s sleep. I press my cheek against the warmth of theirs and gently remind them that morning came once again, and it is time to greet her. Surprisingly, they most often wake without a fight, and while I try to convince them to tell me about their dreams with the giant, man eating spider in the throes of superhero sheets, typically both boys want the same: to be carried to the couch in the living room.
Waking is the easy part. Walking is not. So I always oblige, lifting their boy bodies one by one, and depositing them gently on the sofa, where the quilt rests in an upheaval from an evening prior of book reading, adult conversating, or television watching, or mostly likely a combination of all. Both leap up to assist in the lift, as my five year old eats everything on his plate for every meal, he is becoming increasingly more difficult to carry. Yet I hold on nonetheless, to those quiet rituals of the early risers, lifting and laying, lifting and laying. Bending and lifting, laying and standing.
One particular morning, when my back was still hurting from that old, aged mattress on our bed, I struggled to lift the four year old, the youngest, the baby, from his bed to my hip. Softly, I whispered to him, “What I am going to do when I can no longer carry you? Whom will carry you then?” Eyes half open, he gave me a gentle pat on the back and softly replied, “God”.
I carried each of my children for nine months. Then I carried them from the hospital to home. From home to crib, from crib to high chair, from high chair to car seat. A few years ago, I almost always had a baby on my hip. There was a time in my mornings of motherhood when I would curl up and cry when I heard them waking. The nights had been so long and the days were too. There was no time to rest, no time to regroup. The days were heavy, their bodies were light.
Yet, these mornings, their bodies are now heavier,but our days are lighter, and I breathe in every moment of it. Because the day is rapidly approaching that I will no longer be able to lift any of my children. But my youngest, the baby, is right: I am certain God really has been carrying us the entire time.
My back has been aching lately; a dull sense of soreness from the top of my neck down to the lower part of my waist. We really need to get that new mattress.
(Note: This article originally appeared in the October 15th edition of the LaFollette Press, in my lifestyles column, Letters from the Nest).
This article can also be found on the author’s blog Letters from the Nest.