by Grace Caplan
art by Maanasa Reddy
Dear Mom, I love you and I heard you start crying. You were talking about the dream you have had for years. In the dreamscape, the moon hangs above a dark silvery world and each shadowed figure of the landscape stands out against a reddish sky. Alone, you are searching for your baby — sometimes babies. Sometimes in the dream the sky is blue or green and the earth is more arid — what does it matter? You are panicked with the sense that you lost them or they had been taken from you. You are afraid and you come to a precipice. It is just your body now — defiant, tragic, or lost? — silhouetted against a reddening sky.
Dear Mom, you started crying when I asked you what you thought the dream meant. You said it was obvious and then you warned me that you would start crying. I looked forsakenly outside the car windows at the passing hills but I wanted you to continue. Your voice broke when you said that you feel that maybe you didn’t give enough love to your children. I began to cry then. “Give enough love.”
Dear Mom, when I think about you I think about the sun. The correlation started early; the sun was the biggest thing I knew. I imagine myself shifting through thousands of years to be at each civilization on the day they worshiped the sun, always dancing and cheering as it shone down. You filled up my world in my earliest memories and it was the truest then (most of what I do now is try to recreate this truth). Each moment with you stretched into infinity — all I felt was warmth and curiosity as we picked up stones and crouched down to look at small flowers. I think I could see each sun beam hanging in the air and each particle of dust like a universe. Mom, this is the life you lead me to. All I feel is peace when I think about the way that I was anointed into this world with you.
I now think about motherhood more as I get older. I used to think of the maternal instinct as something which overcomes and fundamentally changes someone; that mothers are different. But you were just a young woman, I realize. A little older than me — I know nothing. You were a young woman like me and you did the most beautiful thing young women do which is to love something. In the vast world you found this helpless thing — a baby — and you chose to care for it — for us.
Now when I feel the sun I think of you and I want to lay with you in the sun like we would in tall grass or the snow and we would soak it all in. All of life with you. “I didn’t give enough.”
I guess that the pain you feel now is because of us. Because we grew older, Mom, and more monstrous. And the young woman didn’t understand why her babies now had pain in their reddened eyes. “Not enough love.” Dear Mom, it wasn’t you. The world is so hard sometimes.
Last week I rode my bike to a spot where the evening light touched the edges of everything. The world seemed to me to be so perfect. Recently, I realized that I will die. I guess the youthful egoism that presupposed that I cannot not exist wore off. For weeks I had experimented with the idea of an indifferent universe — one that could kill me off. I came to a large tree and looked up and I thought about how perfect everything is at being and I knew I couldn’t face the possibility of death yet. There must be something cradling me in this warm summer afternoon with the flies floating over the seeded grass. Was it God? I thought I believed in God, Mom, but I think I believe in you.
Ever since I came to college and left you, I’ve flirted with the idea of a power that cares about me. Is this all religion is? Human is born into a world of their mother in which everything centers around her and her love. Human begins to explore the ever-growing world in the shelter of maternal protection. Slowly though, Human wanders farther and farther and freedom comes to mean independence and choice and fate together rip: a quiet tear.
However, there remains the profound need to remain attached to a protecting figure and the desire to once again be a child to my mother. Human turns to authority; Human turns to God because Human misses their mom.
Dear Mom, I miss when we were all at home; I miss childhood in ways that I can’t express other than closeness and the creak of a staircase. I know that you feel lost and I know that I don’t have answers on this great transition from mother of children to mother of adults. I don’t know anything — I am not a mother, only a daughter.
I don’t want the dream to close out, the sky to become red. I don’t want you to have to stand there alone against it all. I don’t want you to have to awake either, with the nauseating feeling of lost babies still hanging in the dark room. You didn’t lose us. We changed.
And we definitely cry sometimes and we beat our heads against the pillow, but haven’t we always done that? And sometimes we stumble out our jumbled minds and apartments into a sunny day and slowly raise our face to feel the warmth, our eyelids flutter softly, and suddenly we can hear sparrows too just behind the thick drone of traffic.