Wednesday, November 3, 2021

The Love of an Astronomer

I have already prepared inside me ticker-tape lists of my shortcomings as a mother; too harsh, too preoccupied, completely uninvolved in the classroom, meaningless screen time, not enough health food, utter contempt for children's musical choices, no instructional flossing, unread books, broken karate lesson promises, and on, and on. The reams of tape don't keep me up at night, and maybe that should get added to the lists. But I know they're there, reminding me, comparing me, to the one in ten women who find their life source in the care of children. How is it that if there are 90 mothers whose life force is elsewhere, all of us are friends with the 10 gifted caregivers? Maybe we 90 want to be mothered by their glow.

Anyway, this is the dim aura that usually settles on the portions of my day spent in proximity to my role as a mother. This week I spent five consecutive hours sweeping piles of dust out from beneath my sons' mattresses and separating the Pokémon cards from the Yugioh cards, the Lego bricks from the Lincoln Logs. I went through every article of clothing they have, preparing socks to be reunited, addressing stains from the red mud of the Eno river, and deciphering which t-shirts are officially too small. I held one up with both hands, squinting my eyes like a surveyor of unpaved roads. The difference between size 4/5, size 5/6, and size 6/7 should be a span of 3 years of growth, but sometimes it's millimeters of cotton.

Only a mother. Yes, suddenly a soft assurance found me. I know my boys. I can close one eye and judge their shape to the millimeter. Not literally, because I have no idea in feet and inches how tall they are. But somehow I hold who they are inside my eyes, and I know. I love them like an astronomer loves stars. I know the shape of their heads and the texture of their hair. I observe them like a scientist and I chart the notes to be stored in the vault of my heart.

by artist, astronomer, and etymologist Étienne Léopold Trouvelot 

I do worry about how they'll remember me. Being loved by a scientist is surely not as comfortable as being loved by warmer mothers. But I release myself from the memoirs they may write from memories, their pens that might slice me like swords. That is then and this is now. When they take up their pens and their scalpels, I will know just what they're feeling. I will be dissected, and I hope they make it to the vault of my heart where I charted my love in millimeters.

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