I was that girl who carried a doll baby with her everywhere she went. And not by the hair or the hem of her skirt, but gently, sweetly wrapped in a blanket, safe and warm.
One of the earliest photos of me, as a toddler, shows me clutching my Raggedy Ann doll. My eyes are teared up and I'm miserable because my mom tried to take Raggedy away for the photo. She finally relented and gave her back. The teary-eyed portrait is the best image they got that day, capturing much more than my child's face, but a glimpse of my spirit as well.
These are the same heart-strings that are being plucked today. My first real baby, my son Elijah turned 16 yesterday. He's 6'3" and growing. Tall and slender, with a deep voice and sprouting stubble, he is hardly recognizeable in form from the soft, cheeky baby you see here. But, like me, he is the same person underneath. Just like he was as a baby, he is kind-hearted, cuddly, intelligent beyond belief, and so, so good to his mom.
In those early years, Elijah was my daily companion and at times my only friend. The silver lining to a very hard period of my life is the closeness we developed as mother and son. I have such a mushy, saggy soft spot for him in the middle of my chest. It gets deeper and squooshier as the years pass. And it hurts sometimes. How is it that my little angel-faced baby is now housed in the framework of a man? It's a puzzle that has confounded mothers for centuries. I'm not the first.
The hope is that I'll know Elijah much longer as a man than I knew him as a boy. With this math on my side, perhaps the puzzle will resolve itself. Or maybe this is why we have memory loss in our old age—to ease the pains of distant memories.
Today, my heart hurts. I know things are no different from yesterday. And I have nothing but gratitude for this forward-rolling life we've been given. I hang my heart on Elijah's daily hugs, his love for family activities, his lack of embarrassment over his old mom, and his wish to live near us as an adult. Unlike so many teenagers, he's in no hurry to leave us behind. This gives me clearance to teach him to fly, as I know he'll return safely and willingly—if more infrequently as the years pass. My eyes might be a bit redder for the experience, but success as a mom is a happy, healthy, functional child—who also still likes you somehow in the end.
He is a good, good kid. I am grateful to be his mom.