They’re Becoming

The two shadow-like figures hovered beside the bed, standing still, waiting in the dark for me to take notice. I’d been curled in a fetal position facing the center of the bed. Nobody talked or touched me, but their lurking presence was enough to stir me from my pre-dawn sleep. I turned and lifted my head, squinting in the dark, squinting without my glasses.

“We’re ready for school,” one of them said. It was too dark and too early for me to distinguish their voices.

“What time is it?” My head raised off the pillow, an alertness emerging as I realized I might have overslept. I reached for my phone on the bedside table – it doubles as my alarm – and pressed the center button. The small screen illuminated the room and showed me the time: 6:45 am.

“We’re all dressed,” said Short-pants.

I wanted to be pleased, but they didn’t have to leave for school for another 90 minutes.

“So can we watch a movie?” said Buddy-roo.

“I’ll make breakfast myself,” said Short-pants.

How did this happen, this spurt of maturity and self-reliance? Just yesterday I was spooning yogurt and bananas off of their chins and into their mouths, holding their hands as they took those first foal-like steps, celebrating the first diaper-less dry nights. Now they’re dressing themselves and negotiating video time by preparing their own breakfast. I groaned.

“Would you like me to make you coffee?” said Short-pants.

~ ~ ~

I wasn’t a particularly pleasant pregnant woman. I know some women love it; they glow, nest and rub their Buddha bellies. I wasn’t among that tribe and I did not pretend to be. Once the children moved out of my womb – the first of many times they would leave a mess behind them – I enjoyed them as butterballs with fine tiny fingers, but to a point. I struggled with the adjustment. And if someone made the mistake of assuming my fervor for motherhood, this happened a lot, with “Isn’t it wonderful, being a mom?” I would answer truthfully that despite my grand affection for the babies, I didn’t find the day-to-day of mothering so wonderful.

These conversations, filled with admonishment for my lack of enthusiasm, always ended with the clichéd “but it goes by so fast!” Eventually I learned to shake my ahead and agree, lest my protests would prolong an already tiresome conversation, or get me reported to child services.

But indeed, it has sped by and now those babies have grown into young girls, with a decade of stories to tell. They’ve survived broken bones and brain surgery and broken hearts and ex-best friends. Along the way, they’ve taught me how much I love having them close, just in time to turn around and start teaching me how to let go.

~ ~ ~

Now that my mother is gone, my memories of her seem precious. When she was alive they were just flashes of the past, vignettes of her standing on the back porch, seated at the head of the table, in the car beside me, driving home after my piano lesson. Now, there’s something much more deliberate about these memories. I’m calling upon my brain to use extra ink to embed these nostalgic images of her so I don’t lose them. I’m afraid I’ll forget the details about her, the things that for so long I took for granted.

Not just the images. Her words also have extra ballast, too.

“I never thought you’d be such a good mother,” she told me once. This could be construed as a backhanded compliment, but it wasn’t. I knew what she meant. Given the ambitions I expressed as a young woman, mothering wasn’t on the list of things she expected me to be good at. She wasn’t being mean-spirited; she was actually expressing her delight.

“My only regret,” she said to me, in those final cocooned days just before she slipped away from consciousness, “is that I won’t get to see who your children will become.”

This was one of last coherent things she ever said to me. Sitting at her bedside, my imagination rushed ahead to future graduations and weddings, milestone events she wouldn’t get to see. In this case, I supposed, it didn’t go by fast enough.

Well, mom, Short-pants has become long and lean and lovely. She’s supremely conscientious and creative; her homework is always completed, her room is always a mess. She cooks scrambled eggs and French toast all by herself and operates my coffee press like a barista. She’s sage beyond her years, yet there’s a poignant innocence about her wisdom. She reads books like a fiend, draws mandalas for fun and knits without dropping a stitch. De-facto is a going to get a beautiful scarf for Christmas.

Buddy-roo is becoming a force. She has the best day of her life and the worst day of her life in the span of an hour. She sings to herself in the shower. She purrs like a cat when you scratch her back, just like I did. She likes to straighten her room before she goes to bed at night. Despite the necessary nudging on her homework, she’s also rising to the task, surprising us occasionally with her initiative to do tomorrow’s assignments tonight. She has her own fashion style – leggings with everything – and she wants a typewriter for her birthday.

They’re becoming extraordinary, these granddaughters that you wondered about. They’re becoming real characters, good little people with big hearts. They’ve become everything you could have imagined – and as you might have imagined – they’re becoming even more than that. And for the record, it’s just not the same without you here to marvel at it.

9 Responses to “They’re Becoming”

  • Tracy Weisman Says:


  • Caroline Pakel aka Fraley Says:

    yes, very beautiful.

  • Andy Parker Says:

    Lovely post.

    “[Y]ou are such a good mother.” That is one of the most important things a parent needs to hear, and know. Most of us rarely think it. What’s closer–at least for me–are jokes about yet another thing I’ve done that will send you to therapy when you’re older.

    When I remember, I give friends pregnant with their first child a copy of Anne Lamott’s “Operating Instructions.” I make them promise me they won’t read it until three months after their child is born. I follow-up and check, too. That’s one of the ways I can be obnoxious…

    “Isn’t it wonderful being a mom?” While I think some women, and men are born to parent, I think more of us hear that phrase with some dread. The question calls to mind laughter, clean diapers, and glee, as if they’re the only things a new parent is experiencing.

    The thing is, kids grow up fast. While their becoming is fabulous to behold, it obscures memories of blown out diapers, sleepless nights, and the terror of a crying fit that doesn’t have an obvious cause (hunger, exhaustion, or a dirty diaper). And yet these days, I take to a newborn like white on rice. This summer I found myself asking to hold the newborns of two different mom friends at a picnic. “Isn’t wonderful to be a new Dad?” I thought to myself. I held them until my arms ached. That experience is something that points to the way we, over time, “become,” too.

    “You are such a good mother.” I bet in fifty some odd years, you’ll repeat that saying, twice. Short-pants and Buddy-roo? They’ll treasure them too, and fight to hold on to their memories of you and De-facto after you pass. Then as now, what you and they remember will be, enough.

  • Delphine Says:

    I am here. In a bus in the middle of the jordanian desert.
    And you made me cry. You have this thing about knowing perfectly how to describe things I feel inside me (except I am a bit jealous ´cause your relationship with your own mum is beautiful).
    Thanks again. I do not know why but it make me Think it’d be great to create an “anlive mum Society” (cf the dead poets Society)… 🙂 we could transform our feelings and experiences into beautiful texts, poems, paintings, songs, plays, dances… And share them

  • Betty Shamas Says:

    I sure have a lump in my throat after reading this…brings back precious memories.

  • Marinera76 Says:

    Thank you for such a beautiful post.

  • Susan Thoren Says:

    You start me off in one place and then gently lead me down a beautiful little path to another place entirely. Such a poignant journey today…thanks.

  • Catriona Says:


  • kunyi Says:

    One thing among many that I savour about your post is that it is just like a long and potentially boozy conversation about life over red wine with a good and honest friend.
    I was away at a family wedding with three teenagers, sheparding them through airports and the social intricacies of an Indian function (and a wedding at that), away from home, as best I could.
    I hoped that there would be one of your posts awaiting me – as a reward of sorts for only losing my temper some of the time.
    And presto – my prayers were answered.
    This was a really good one.

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