I cried during my son’s spring concert. At first it was the song, the way the chorus lifted its voice and filled the auditorium, and then it wasn’t the song at all but the fact that I saw him — standing tall and straight in the back row — through all the years of spring concerts, a small, sometimes confused little boy now a poised young man. I am in awe of the change, of his grace. He had warned me I would cry, and he was right.
Ghosts slip through my fingers like white smoke. I am drawn to the past and memories of a time when this life was nothing like what it turned out to be. I don’t know what it is exactly that I am chasing, but it’s something that is long gone, something that can’t be held again.
I imagine a small tattoo on the inside of my wrist or at my ankle, a small work of greenish/black art. I don’t mention it, or ever think it out loud. I may not care if anyone approves or not. I don’t have a clear sense of what this tattoo should be, but I like the possibility of it, the idea that I can do this one thing for myself if I choose. Like a secret only I can decide to share.
They sang Imagine at the spring concert. The music teacher explained that the kids chose the song and arranged it. It was beautiful, but not the song that made me cry. The song that made me cry was You Raise Me Up. Sitting in the auditorium, eyes on my son, I couldn’t help but think of all the times we’ve raised each other up, the baby I held in my arms and the young man who held me when I was sick. I want that etched into my skin. I don’t ever want to feel the ghost of this time slip through my fingers. I want to look down and see it always. There is so little in our lives we can control, so few moments we can orchestrate. I feel him slipping away from me — as he must — but I don’t ever want to let go.
I am aware of how lucky we are. I am grateful for all of it. The good days, the bad days, in sickness and in health. I will never take any of it for granted again. I think sometimes, this desire for a tattoo, a small reminder of sorts, is rooted in being a survivor. There is an underlying restlessness to my actions, a need to make the most of my days, but also to slow down and savor the shiny bits of life. I don’t know if a single tattoo can convey all of that, but it’s an idea I hold on to. That, and this boy who is so quickly becoming a man.
I came into motherhood uneasily. It was not my first instinct. And the early years were rough, we fed each other’s anxiety. But somewhere in the middle we settled into it, and now there is a bond, a shared knowing of where we’ve been and where we may be going. He has the lion’s share of my heart. I cling to what is familiar and I long for what has been lost. But I want, too, the things that are just outside my grasp — the complicated, messy, unknown world. And all its shiny bits.