For the first time my 11-year-old son Rafi, at the urging of his grandmother, announced recently he was going to spend his allowance on a Mother's Day gift for me. He wanted to know what I wanted. He couldn't believe my response when I told him not a thing this Mother's Day and all my remaining Mother's Days. And sorry, floral shops across the Moldy Pueblo, I banned flowers, too.
I told him it was time for us to start a new tradition and I asked if he could write a one-page letter to me or make something like those early-childhood glory days of tiny hand prints and crayolas—whatever 11-year-olds are moved to make nowadays.
When it comes to things, I pretty much have all I want. Although, right now, as I watch my son navigate through middle school and do what I remember doing during that time—figuring out friendships and a place in this world (wow, maybe I'm still working on that)—I just wish I could have time. You know, just go back a few times to fix things or slow things down this very instant. This beautiful son of mine on the cusp of manhood: He towers over me, but his smile is the same—dimpled and glorious. However, my heart hurts a little knowing time won't slow down for this mother. No.
When my son was born, I remember clearly how I felt the first time I held him in my arms—the power of love I felt was so strong. I remember remarking I didn't realize what true love was until that day. He was and remains the love of my life. Becoming a mother also helped me understand my own mom better and I think it helped me become a better daughter. At least, with all my faults, I'd like to think so. Of course, you'd have to ask her.
I do know that once my mom became a grandmother she went into superhero mode, supporting me through every challenge that presented itself. Nowadays, she's opened her home to us, helps me with after-school pick-ups and care, makes dinners—especially my son's favorite foods. There are the special holidays and trips. But what I love about my son being able to spend more time with his grandmother are little things I hope add up one day—reminders to be polite, to wash his hands and cultivating independence.
But what's also wonderful about time spent with his grandmother is that he gets to hear stories. Many of them are stories I got to hear growing up. But because of what I know now—what those stories did, how they helped me become who I am today—hearing her share stories on family history or traditions means more coming from her. I don't know where my son will be 20 years from now, but if he moves away, I know those stories will come in handy when he visits. His grandmother will pop into his head and our family's history will unfold. I know it will, because that's what happened to me and still does.
Those stories fill my head and heart. They are about the people that make up a family. They are about my mother in her late 70s wanting to make sure a new generation has something to hold onto and doesn't forget. But no doubt, no doubt at all those stories are about Tucson and have a lot to do with why I moved back home five years ago. They are also why I understand the importance of family and cultural history. Rafi knows his family's ties to Tucson. Poor kid. Those things you learn by default when you live with storytellers.
Maybe one day I'll be blessed to tell another generation our stories. Maybe I'll get a chance to eavesdrop and hear Rafi tell some of those stories to wee people I hope he feels the same way about—he'll hold someone small and precious in his arms for the first time and be surprised at how he feels inside. That love.
Driving home last week a song came to mind. It's a song I used to sing to Rafi at bedtime from the beginning, the very beginning. A little song I wrote right there in the hospital room. It came to me and I sang a rousing song driving down Aviation Highway, the kid sitting shotgun with a smile across his face.
"You remember that song?" I asked him.
"Yeah," he admitted.
"Good, Mr. Beautiful. Don't you forget it," I returned.
Seriously, who needs gifts on Mother's Day, when in reality, I have everything I need.