My little one went to the Farmer’s market with the neighbors and a few bucks in her pocket. She picked cherries the color of rubies from a bin and she filled half a brown paper bag with them. She brought them home and pulled them from her backpack with pleasure written all over her face. “I bought them for you, Mom,” she said. “I know how much you love them.”
She pulled one out of the bag by the stem and held it out to me like a jewel, an offering. I washed it and ate around the pit. I don’t like cherries, but I told her it was the best cherry I ever tasted while she shoved one after another in her mouth. They left a ruby ring around her lips when she smiled, so proud to give me this gift. She then asked me to reimburse her for the cost of said gift, and I smiled to myself as I watched her spit out pits. Then I gave her a few dollars.
I often read the late night scratchings of mothers in the thick of raising very little ones, or those who have recently stepped out of the fog of raising little ones. It makes me feel incredibly sad that I didn’t write my way through those years. I filed those stories for another day, and now they are shadows cast by the evening sun. Those words never made it to paper or computer screen. The stories aren’t lost to me, but they’re difficult to capture now that my children are older and we’re living new stories.
Reading these mamas words and their baby stories often makes me wish I’d done things differently. Cuddled more, absorbed more, written more, reveled more. And then I remember the exhaustion and the moving overseas and the frequent travel, and I realize that I lived more than most mamas in those early years. The living more was important for me and for us as a family, and if the stories never made it to print, at least I know they are tattooed somewhere deep in the lining of mine and my children’s souls.
Now that we live in the stage of teens and tweens, I find myself desperate not to wish away the hard years or the stories we are writing today. I don’t know a lot of mamas who write about these years because the kids aren’t so cute when they’re calling you names under their breath and the cuddles are harder to come by. They don’t call spaghetti “bizgetti” anymore. They want privacy, and they deserve it too. But they still bring us paper bags of cherries and they still crawl into bed for a quick cuddle before leaving for sleep-away camp and they help us mamas pick out the most flattering pair of wedge heels for the wardrobe they regularly raid. God, these years are so good. The stories are so rich, and I want to read more of them. I want to tell you more too. I want you to know that these years are the rubies dangling from the stem, the true gift after all the sleepless nights of their toddlerhood.
The sleepless nights begin again at this age, for different reasons, but there is clarity in the midnight hours that you don’t have in the fog of babyhood. You are wide awake enough to pray, and to remember the stories tattooed across your soul, and to look forward to the new ones that will find their way into the inner lining. I want to write through these years, for me and for them. I want to write through these years for you too, so you forget to feel afraid or alone when you live through them. These years are the gems, and they will leave a ruby stain to remind you that the hard years can be the most beautiful ones too.