This morning found me emptying out a box my mother had given me some baby clothes in last year. The box is covered in a small, brown and white floral print and has two ribbons that run across the lid and down the back and front, where two bows made of the same ribbon sit festively. It's a lovely box, perfect for storing treasures. I gathered up the few items of clothing I've saved so far, things Luke can no longer wear but with which I just can't bear to part. A tiny blue-and-white-striped, long-sleeved onesie that I bought before I was ever pregnant. A long-sleeved t-shirt my mother brought back from Scotland, bearing a stick figure boy, the Scottish flag and the words Brae Bairn ("fine boy" is the literal translation but I believe "strong boy" is more the implication). A onesie that my husband decorated with a photo of an old fishing boat with peeling paint docked next to a small rowboat with brand-new paint, both leaning to the left. ("Is that you and Luke?" I had asked him. He had nodded, wordless, shy suddenly.) And finally the pair of brown plaid flannel pants, so punk rock and so terribly nerdy, the pants that prompted my brother to say that making my son wear them fell under the category of child abuse.
As I folded them all, put them into the box and looked around for somewhere to put the box, I felt somehow that I was looking into a mirror and seeing my mother as she was when I was a child -- young, idealistic, altruistic. It's such a vulnerable state, this having a child. There -- there!-- is your reason for driving more carefully, for being more kind, for following up with people to make sure they know you care -- there in that very small 22-pound package, is life itself. Frankly sometimes this terrifies me. Having spent most of my life finding ways to disguise my vulnerability and extreme sensitivity, it's shocking to recognize over and over again that the jig is up. That the disguises won't work anymore, because see that little blond boy with the huge blue-gray eyes and the drooly shirt? There's my soft spot for all the world to see.
So, really, what's the point of trying to hide? It's all out in the open now (as if my various tactics at seeming fortress-like had ever fooled anyone...). There's a huge freedom in that, I'm finding. Oh well, and a shrug, has become a standard response, and not in a glib sort of way, but rather with relief, knowing the pressure's off, somehow. Enough with trying to be all things to all people. Here I am, doing my damndest. That's all. And that's everything.