Now I Know How Much You Love Me


Thirty four years ago tonight, I was elated, scared, confident and worried. Thirty four years ago tonight, I was in Boston’s Brigham and Woman’s Hospital, trying with all my might to give birth to my first child.

It was a long and daunting process, but it ultimately resulted in Paul and I holding our very own daughter in our arms. I remember looking into her wide open dark eyes and thinking to myself that life would never be boring again.

One look at her sweet chin and I was in love. Head over heels, who-cares-about-the-rest-of-the-world in love, love, LOVE.

I remember one moment in the hospital. I was on lots of medication, having just had a C-Section. My baby girl was in my arms, the lights were low, and it was just the two of us, breathing in each other’s breaths. I was swept with the deep love that I felt; I knew that if anyone or anything threatened this child, I would kill them or die in the attempt.

I remember resting my cheek against hers and thinking about my Mom. “Wow,” I whispered into the quiet room, “Momma, now I know how much you love me.”

Nothing before that moment had allowed me to fully understand just how deeply my own Mother loved me. I finally understood.

My relationship with Mother has not always been smooth or gentle or free of the barbs that come with jealousy, anger, rebellion. My relationship with my daughter hasn’t either.

But now I find myself almost equally balanced between the two of them, and I am overwhelmed with how sweetly and how deeply my love for them both reaches.

My daughter is the best Mother I know.

She is devoted, calm, loving, supportive and flexible. She keeps her sense of humor intact.

Right now, she is pregnant with her third child; her health, her strength and her stamina are always a worry to me. She is an elementary school teacher, too, so rest time is not something that comes to her easily.

But she is smiling, happy with her life, excited about her career, her children, her new baby and the husband she loves.

She’s kind of my hero.

And my Mother, who will turn 90 in a few weeks, is my other hero. And my other worry.

Mom is still at home, with help from a health aide and from her children. She is increasingly fragile, increasingly confused, in need of more care every month.

It breaks my heart to see my warrior woman Momma, who was the first feminist I ever knew, sinking into her last days.

And yet.

I go to see her once a week. We share a meal, we talk about the past, we do little chores around the house.

And every single time, Mom tells me that she is proud of me, and that she is grateful for my presence. She tells me that she loves me “more” than I love her.

Tonight my heart is filled with a potent mix of love, pride, sadness and joy.

I spent the day baking a beautiful chocolate cake with my grandkids, who love their Mom so much. There were paintings and macaroni necklaces to celebrate her birthday.

I looked at my little granddaughter at one point. I felt my place in a long, long, long line of women and their mothers and their daughters.

I owe my life to my Mom. In turn, she allowed me to have my daughter. Who has blessed my life with her own children.

I look at my grandchildren, dressed in dance clothes, frosting a cake that we’d made together. I thought of my Mom.

“Now I truly know how much you love me.”

Ellie


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It was all so perfect.  So beautiful.

It has been the most exciting, scary, thrilling, exhausting, confusing, uplifting, life changing weekend of my life.

So how do I write about all that?  Where do I begin?

She’s here: Our granddaughter is here!

Two and a half weeks early, she made her appearance this past weekend, in the middle of our annual huge family reunion camping trip.

Yep. You got that right: her parents were camping when she decided to begin her journey into the world.  At the same campground were her grampa and about 50 other close relatives. All sound asleep after a wonderful evening of celebratory eating and drinking.  Her Nonni (me) was about fifteen minutes away in a nice dry, clean motel.

I can’t write it all down here; I am still too filled with bubbles of joy and shivers of nerves and a huge fog of fatigue.  I can’t write it all down.

But I can tell you this:

When I held her this afternoon, one day after her birth, I felt a wave of love as deep as that I feel for her Mom. Just as deep and just as sharp.  Baby Ellie, I would do anything in the world to keep you safe. I would die for you. I would give you my last bite of food, my last nickel, my very last breath.   My love for you is just as deep as my love for my own children.

But its wider. Its broader. It covers more of the terrain of my heart.  Baby Ellie, when I look at your perfect pink shell fingernails, I know that I am seeing my firstborn child in you.  I am seeing the only man I’ve ever loved, your Grampa.  I am seeing my mother, and my sisters and my brothers. I am seeing my Nana, and my MammaNonni and my cousins and my aunts and uncles.  When I look at your sweet silken eyebrows, I am seeing your Daddy, and his Daddy and his.  I am seeing all of the aunts and uncles and cousins that I have yet to meet.  My love for you is a giant circle, pulling in everyone who has given you a piece of what is now you.

Baby Ellie, my life will never ever be the same again.  You don’t know any of this yet.  All you know is that you are surprised to find that you suddenly have to actually work for food.  You only know that you recognize the sound of your parents voices, so you open those milky blue eyes whenever they speak.  You only know the feel of their skin, the comfort of their hands.  You don’t realize that just by being born, too early but at the perfect time, you have given the greatest gift to the people who love you.  You don’t understand that by arriving far from home, but in the most perfect and wonderful place, you have cemented your place in your family’s history and lore.

I can’t write down the details yet. Not yet. They are too fresh and too precious.  But these few things I do know, and will share.

You really can surprise yourself with how much love is being stored in your heart.

The human body is an amazing and gorgeous creation; birth is a perfectly synchronized dance between mother and child.

Twenty Nine years ago, although I didn’t realize it at the time, I gave birth to a goddess.