Life begins. Right now, I’m thinking of the life of my son, born 54 years ago. As I remember it, I think of a picture of me holding him while my then-husband, his dad, drove us home. It was before seat belts and child seats were either common or required, so my baby was held snugly in my arms. I’m wearing a dark green dress with large white polka-dots that I recall with pleasure. I also remember feeling overflowing joy at having this healthy baby. Another memory flashes immediately, that of walking into our apartment, and closing the door.
At that instant, I felt fear as, for the first time, I recognized that I was actually the mother of this infant, with no idea of how to be his mother. That fear subsided as we put him in his beautiful cradle, sorted out the gifts we received, and awaited the arrival of my own mother, who would visit every day for the next six weeks.
We named him John Valentine, after my dad, partly because he was born on Father’s Day, perhaps more because I loved my dad so much. We would call our son Jackie until he was about fifteen, then transitioned to Jack, although my mom called him Jackie until her death when he was forty years old.
When he started college, he decided he wanted to be John to others, except for his family. So, we continued to call him Jack. Shortly after he began college, I called his room — this was before cell phones. His roommate answered and when I asked for Jack, was told that I must have the wrong number. I hung up, confused at first, then called back a few minutes later, asking for John. ‘Sure, he’s right here,’ his roommate said. Ok, I guess he’s grown up now.
Fast forward through many details and two decades to 2005, when he moved to North Carolina. We’d always had a good relationship; still, I was apprehensive that our closeness would diminish with the distance. It didn’t. He and his then-wife welcomed us warmly at either Thanksgiving or Christmas with delicious meals and activities planned that we loved, such as annual visits to Duke Gardens and the Carolina Ballet’s Nutcracker. Plus, he visited here every summer. In so many ways, he continued to make me feel loved.
Then, following plans made last year, he moved back to Massachusetts two weeks ago! He and his significant other, the woman he was engaged to about 35 years ago, are now living about twenty miles away from me, both having successfully transferred their jobs locally. We have been very happy to welcome her back into our lives. Of course, it didn’t hurt that she influenced his decision to move back here.
The week he moved back, he asked if they could come here for dinner, because the moving truck had just arrived and their apartment was in chaos. They promised to have us for dinner soon. Of course, I was thrilled to have them here, though I agonized about what to serve. The menu included stuffed artichokes and lobster rolls and I’m quite certain it was a success.
Then, when we tried to set the time for us to have dinner at their place, between their work schedules and my activist commitments, it was going to be two weeks. This morning, Jack called and said, ‘What are you doing for lunch?’ My brain rapidly considered skipping this writing class, but, no, I didn’t want to. I told Jack about the class and he offered to stop in at 2:30, when the class will end, because, he said, he didn’t want to go two weeks without seeing me.
There are many ways for a person to show love — with creative or expensive gifts, with cards and flowers. I believe that I have never felt my son’s love so much as right now, as I await his arrival. When his life began, I was both excited to be a mom and afraid of the enormous responsibility. He is certainly a caring and considerate person; it’s probably safe to say that I have faithfully fulfilled my duty as a mother.
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