When my third child was born, I fell in love at first sight and never once looked back.
   OK, there was a brief period in his teen years when I almost sent him to live with my mother for a proper education in what she called the “school of hard knocks.’’
   But that’s another story. This is a story about love, what it does for us and the things we will do for it.
   The instant I saw him, fresh from my body and slick with my blood, I loved him completely.
   It took no effort to do this. It was the easiest, most transforming event of my life, like falling off a beautiful mountain. I realized two things: There was no turning back; and I would never be the same.
   Make no mistake, I’d felt the same about his older brother and sister. Love is love. It knows no bounds and refuses to be defined.
   But what was different with my third child was this time, more than ever, I was ready to be a mother.
   Anyone can love a child. Being a mother, a good one, is an acquired skill. It takes practice. And with practice comes an appreciation.
   Musicians listen to music to develop an ear. Artists study art to sharpen the eye. Great chefs cook to fine tune the palate. Writers write in search of a voice.
   But mothers? We “mother.” We feed and clean, nourish and nurture, guide and protect, champion and cheer, worry and pray and wait.
   We do it for years, day and night, waking or sleeping, until we get so good we don’t have to think about how to do it. It’s like learning to ride a bike. One day you pop off the training wheels and just start pedaling like a bat out of hell.
   By the time my third child came along, my training wheels were long gone. I’d been a mother for five years. I didn’t have to think about how to do it. I knew what I needed to know, and all the rest, I was sure he would teach me.
   I loved everything about him. His mouth, a classic pink rosebud. The way he locked his fingers around my thumb and refused to let go. The way he gazed into my eyes as if he were checking out my soul, as if he were weighing my worth to be his mother, and having weighed it, had somehow found me worthy.
   I loved how he smelled like a loaf of Wonder Bread. How he sounded like a chicken settling down to roost. The way he grew still and stopped fussing when I whispered in his ear and told him to hush, not to worry, his mama was there.
   But most of all I loved his feet.
   I am sure my other children had very fine feet _ and other parts that were truly exceptional _ but for some reason I don’t recall their feet being anything at all like his. I wish you could have seen them.
   They were the most perfect pair of feet I had ever seen, topped off with ten perfect popsicle toes.
   I loved them when they were small enough to fit into my mouth. When they learned to walk and run and take him places I did not want him to go. When they hiked the Himalayas. When they stood beside me the day we buried his dad. When they walked to the altar to marry the love of his life. And when they followed in his father’s footsteps to become a teacher.
   They are big feet now, calloused and tough, not nearly as flawless as when I first saw them. I wouldn’t try to fit them in my mouth.
   But they are still just as perfect, just as beautiful to me. I am his mother. That is what mothers do.
   I love him and his big feet even more now than I did the day he was born. But I have never loved them more than I did last week when his wife sent me a shadowy picture _ a sonogram showing, among other parts, two perfectly formed tiny feet with ten perfect popsicle toes.
   This baby, my first grandchild, will be blessed with many fine gifts, not the least of which will be the love of his family _ his parents, grandparents, uncles and aunts, a wide and welcoming circle in this world and beyond to watch over him wherever he goes.
   But if he’s really lucky, he will have his daddy’s big feet. And I for one can’t wait to taste them.

Speak Your Mind