On Living With Ghosts


Baby Feet“Every mother can easily imagine losing a child.  Motherhood is always half loss anyway.  The three-year-old is lost at five, the five-year-old at nine.  We consort with ghosts, even as we sit and eat with, scold and kiss, their current corporeal forms.” - Karen Joy Fowler Consorting with a ghost…yes, that is exactly how I feel sometimes. My son, Gabriel, is nine months into his first year of life, and I look back, wondering what happened to my newborn—the one who looked at me through baby blues, with oh-so-tiny grasping fingers, and a self-preservation instinct that could smell me across the room. Or the three month old, with smiles that stretched his face’s skin for the first time, and the delight of newly discovered giggles. Or the six month old, who learned to wrinkle his nose when tasting something other than mom’s milk, and raise up ever-strengthening arms to be held and carried. Yes, these are all Gabriel. But in many ways, they are ghosts, hidden inside his little nine month frame, and etched across my bosom and heart.

And all I ever hear is “treasure every moment, because it goes by so fast.” The breathlessness begins, and I start to panic. I don’t want to forget. I don’t want to regret.

So I hold him close to me. I stare at every line of his face while he nurses, looking up at me with that trust. When he wriggles down to the floor to crawl away from me, I realize, once again, that my heart has left my body to abide in another.

"Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body." - Elizabeth Stone

Maybe I can stop this cycle. Maybe I can hold him close forever.

Yet I wake up today, and delight in his newfound talent. He’s figured out how to pucker up and make the “fish face” – the one that I do to make him laugh all the time. He heads for the kitchen, fish lips in position, chubby hands slapping the floor, and baby bottom swinging. And I laugh at the joy of this discovery, and revel—only as a mother can!—at my beautiful and brilliant child.

I realize, isn’t there freedom in this? Isn’t that one of the glorious aspects of getting to raise my own person? To witness so closely this wonderful “cycle of life” that God has created.

So here I am again. I arrive at yet another calling in motherhood—to embrace the person that he is always becoming. To forget who he was yesterday? Never. To ponder every moment in my heart? Most definitely.


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