The last thing I do every night before coming to bed is kiss my children. I’ve been doing it for as long as they’re alive. It has to be the very last thing, even after bathroom and teeth brushing. I come by their beds, and with the very little light there is in the room, I look at each one of them in awe, contemplating their features, their smooth skin, their angelical face. I then bend over and gently kiss them, tuck them in, and sigh. It’s one of the best moments of the day, if not the best… and yet they don’t know I’m there; when they wake up in the morning they have no recollection of that episode, because, well, they were asleep! But to me it’s a magical moment.
Tonight, for the first time in twelve and a half years, something stroke me hard in my mind as I covered my little boy up with his blanket; I wondered if my mother had the same daily routine when I was a child… I wondered if she spent hours of looking at me while I quietly slept, of tucking me in, of wondering of what my future would be, of being amazed by my innocence and of thinking was fast I was growing. I’m not sure she did; she was always so busy and worked so hard to assure our safety and well being, that I can understand if she didn’t. You see, mom would go out to work in the morning and just come home late at night. We often had dinner with our neighbours down the street (we being my four older siblings and I) and would then come home, do our homework and go to bed. I remember listening to her footsteps as she tiptoed up the stairs. Just a few minutes later I could fell the smell of her cooking what would be our lunch for the next day. She would then wrap the pan of stew in two heavy blankets, so the food would still be warm when we were to eat it the following day. That way we didn’t have to mess with matches to heat it up. We hadn’t developed the concept of a microwave back then. And believe me, I’m not that old!
So yeah, I guess I should ask her if she still had the time to come and tuck us in, kiss us good night. My guess will be that yes, she did. How can a mother not want the comfort of looking at her offspring when they’re at their best… sleeping…
Mom had to work that hard to keep us together. Dad died in a car accident at 31 years of age, leaving her with five children to support, the oldest being twelve, and the youngest being me, one year old Bela. I remember missing her a lot. Now that I am a mother, I understand, or at least try to comprehend how suffocating her days away from us must have been back then.
Somehow, we managed to be happy.
When I left Portugal to marry and live in the United States fourteen years ago, she had a hard enough time. She would come to understand and accept and love my husband later on. We tried to visit once a year, which was just enough to cheer her up a couple of weeks. When we decided to move to Portugal after ten years of marriage, I can only imagine her joy… when we decided to move back to the United States just a few months ago, I didn’t have to imagine her pain. I saw it stamped in her eyes. I could see the sadness, the loneliness, the longing for the days back when she had to work so hard but at the end of the day, she had us all under her roof. I hugged my mother and told her I loved her. I saw the tears swell up in her eyes and she walked away to her room, now shared with another lady in a nursing home. All those years of hard work are giving it’s fruits now… illness has her captive in a world that’s not her own, and if I could only have this wish come true, I would take you out to lunch today mom, like I did the past four years… I would buy you your favourite colour roses, red; a dozen of them. We would then talk about memories and probably laugh a lot. I am sorry I can’t take you out for lunch this year… what I can, and will do everyday of my life, is love you and be grateful for the great sacrifices you have made in your life, so we could stay together as a family. You did well… we all turned out just fine. I’m so very sorry you are lonely today.
Happy Birthday mom.