For the past decade or so, I’ve been known by another name.
At our house, this name has been whispered softly and yelled in frustration. It’s been called out at 3 a.m. when there’s been a nightmare, mumbled through tears when there’s been a boo-boo, and shouted in excitement when I’ve returned home from being away.
Sometimes I’ll be downstairs, busy with something, and I’ll hear this name hollered from the second floor. If I take too long (i.e., more than a millisecond) to answer, I’ll be called again. Again. And again. With barely a breath in between.
If I’m sure that no one is seriously hurt and the house isn’t on fire, I’ll pretend that I can’t hear, because I prefer to be spoken to instead of hollered at. Then I’ll remember (too late) that a. I can hear; and b. the sound of “Mom” 100 times in a row is likely a proven cause of insanity. (Later, I’ll learn that the urgency was something like this: “I can’t find my green marker.”)
I’ve learned to recognize different tones. Certain situations, for example, call for “Mom” to be extended into a two-syllable word. A meek “Maw-awm?”means the children are about to ask for something like a treat or extra screen-time. “Maw-awm?” also comes in a more assertive and inquisitive version when they’re looking for information, like the meaning of a word.
And there’s the exasperated “Maw-awm!” (accompanied by an eye-roll) when I’ve provided a directive that is, apparently, just ridiculous – like this one: “It’s -15 degrees out, please wear your hat.”
Okay, so “Mom” isn’t always music to my ears. But when it is… it really is.
There are mornings I gently wake my kids in their beds, when they’re relaxed and unself-conscious, their eyes still closed because they’re only halfway out of dreamland. They raise their arms for a hug, and their skin is warm and their hair smells like lavender shampoo, and their breath is sour but it doesn’t matter, because in their sleepiness they greet me by murmuring the sweetest variation of my other name: “Mama.”
I make an effort – when life is busy and stressful, I don’t always succeed – to hold on to these moments. Tightly. Even if we’ve slept in and we’re running late, even (especially) if we had a fight the day before about chores, or behaviour, or winter hats.
I want to etch these moments into my brain, into my heart; preserve them so I can call them forth for comfort later, during my inevitable moments of doubt and anxiety. Savour them down the road, when my nest is empty and there are no longer any mornings quite like these.
Mother is more than a name. It’s a noun, an adjective, and a verb. It’s a role, a responsibility, a relationship. It’s a way of being, an identity.
I’ve learned that Mom is a pretty powerful word, even if it’s uttered only once.
(Inspired by the WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge: Names)