There are two kinds of mothers. The first remembers the dates and details of everything each child has ever done since the moment of their birth; every illness, injury, playmate, Halloween costume, the names of every teacher, and who came to their middle child's third birthday party. These moms can rattle off baby stats like professional sportscasters: lengths and weights of their newborns, when they cut their first teeth, took their first steps, said their first word, had their first haircuts - and they can do it all without sneaking a refresher look at the baby books they so carefully scrapbooked over the years. I, for one, am glad these women exist because I've often thought there aren't enough self-righteous people on the planet. I also believe in harmony and balance, and mothers like these are the yin to my yang, for I am the second kind - the one who couldn't update the baby books because she kept losing them. They would surface occasionally under piles of mail or laundry, and I'd take a moment to reminisce over the birth announcement I'd tucked inside. Then I'd stick it on top of the refridgerator, resolving to get back to it when I had a little more time. Of course, when you have two children, time is the joke of the century, and the next thing you know, one's in college...the other is shaving his face...and you have absolutely NO idea when they took their first steps or which one had the chickenpox. Someone recently asked me how much my son weighed at birth, and I blanked. I stood there, stalling, while my brain tried desperately to think of how much babies GENERALLY weigh so I could MAKE SOMETHING UP! This is unconscienable to many people, I know; mothers are supposed to be keepers of their children's memories. I am not one such mother. In fact, I've been known to exasperate my kids by whipping out a pencil and scrap paper so I can perform the math necessary to figure out how old they will be on their next birthdays. This alone has caused my children to threaten to put themselves in foster care.
Dear reader, before you run to the nearest magistrate to have my parental rights revoked, allow me to redeem myself. I may not have documented every milestone in their lives, and I admit I'm horrible with dates and statistics, but I remember the moments. Hundreds of them. I don't even carry them in my brain for fear of losing them to a head injury; I carry them in my soul, because they make up every piece of who I am: Creeping into my daughter's room in the morning to peer over the rail of her crib and be rewarded by that incomparable baby smile, the one that lets you know you are her WHOLE WORLD. Walking around the house late at night with my son nestled in my arms, looking up at me; we were kindred insomniacs and I would sing to him for hours. The time he told me, "Mommy, I used to be an angel, but then I fell to the earth, and that's when you found me, took off my wings, and brought me home with you." The night in the car when he called a crescent moon a "cartoon moon", and how we've called them "cartoon moons" ever since. The time my daughter convinced her little classmates that she and I practiced witchcraft at home, and if they didn't play with her, we would cast spells on them. (They were terrified of her for a whole marking period. So was the teacher. That was one hysterical parent-teacher conference, but that's a story for another day...) I remember the look on her face when she let go of the coffee table and took her first independent steps toward me, as clearly as I remember my heartache as I drove away after settling her into her college dorm room. Etched into my heart is the sound of my son's little voice, every time he cried, "Mommy!" He sounds different now, but I'll always hear the little voice. I'll never forget the precious look on his 4-month old face when they removed the bandages after his eye surgery. It was a fairly routine glaucoma surgery, but there's always risk and fear, and when the doctor took the bandages off, it was clear the operation was a success - he saw me and his little face lit up like Christmas. There wasn't a dry eye in the room.
There is one thing I have in common with the Ubermoms - ask me to tell you about giving birth to either of them, and you'd better grab a chair and a box of tissues. Every mother remembers with startling - often graphic - detail every minute of the most miraculous day of her life, and loves to share the story over and over again with anyone who will listen. And boy, oh boy, nobody loves to hear these stories more than other mothers! Get a few of them together over coffee, and it's like "Band of Brothers" with estrogen; it only takes one to start, and then the war stories begin to flow, replete with tears and laughter and appropriate moments of silence. Not one woman needs to express how giving birth to a child was their finest hour; every woman in the room simply understands this. We never need to say out loud how watching them grow up and away makes us feel because we're all in the same foxhole. This is why women can share knowing looks with complete strangers in supermarkets and restaurants. Our badges aren't on our clothing. They're in our hearts, and they shine through our eyes as courage and wisdom.
As the kids start growing away from me, I find myself savoring these memories. I will start writing them down; their baby books will likely be hardbound novels with no clips of baby hair to be found, but they will be just as appreciated. Someday. And maybe my documentarian shortcomings will be forgiven. Years from now, when my memory starts to fade and these little moments slip quietly from me, my children can read them back into my soul, and share them with their own children. Speaking of which, I have every intention of ensuring that my grandchildren have the most fantastic baby books EVER. It's pretty likely I'll have caught up on the laundry by then, and will have the time to spare. I will record every vital statistic, capture every milestone, put in pictures and handwritten stories and create scrapbooks that Martha Stewart would envy. And I'm already picturing that on the front of each one, right above the hand-embroidered name of my grandchild, there will be a drawing of a cartoon moon.