Six weeks before, I had been in labor one hour short of every year I’d been alive, yet at twenty-five, I found that I wanted my mother. But my mother was two hours away and made my geographical impairment look like the capabilities of a homing pigeon. She could not come to my house, and my independent nature wasn’t about to call her at ten at night and snot into the phone that I really needed my feet rubbed while simultaneously being spoon fed ice chips drizzled with Sprite.
But when I awoke the next morning all crusty-eyed and clammy although I was shivering, I barely waited until my husband was out the door before punching in my mother’s number.
“I’m sick.” I added a cough to prove it. “I think I have a fever.”
“Did you take anything?”
I moaned, “I can’t. I’m nursing.”
“At least try to sleep when she does.”
I glanced over at my daughter in her bassinet. Her round blue eyes blinked up at me before she proceeded to gum her mittened hand in a tireless search for sustenance: this did not look like a tired child.
Later that afternoon I was down on my hands and knees scrubbing the bathroom floor with disinfectant when our deranged dog started barking outside.
I glanced out the bathroom window and saw my father’s work truck rumbling in our drive. With his odd shuffling gait from an old football injury, he strode beneath our carport while carrying two Tupperware containers.
I walked into the laundry room, cracked open the door, and squinted against the natural light like a prisoner released from solitary confinement. “I’d say I look worse than I feel,” I mumbled, “but I feel pretty bad.”
My father, never much for words, said, “Mother sent this. I was heading to Knoxville for a job.”
“What is it?” I took the containers from him.
“Chicken corn soup and fruit salad.” He pointed to the sweating cardboard cylinder balanced on top. “And that’s orange juice.”
I nodded while swallowing the tears coating my throat like an elixir. “Thanks,” I said.
After he left, I slid the containers in the fridge and began to prepare supper. I was sautéing onions and bell peppers when my daughter let out a startled cry. Flicking off the burner, I sprinted over and scooped her up from the swing so fast she startled and flung out her arms.
“What is it?” I cooed into her downy hair. “Your tummy hurt?”
My six-week-old daughter of course said nothing, just looked at me with sleepy blue eyes and a wet smile.
At that moment it didn’t matter that my head still throbbed from the sprint across the kitchen and that my swollen glands made my neck resemble a football player’s. All that mattered was that my daughter was well, and then I understood what had kept my mother going through thirty-some years of three children’s strep throats, flus, colds, sinus headaches, and one memorable wisdom teeth extraction.
Kissing my daughter’s warm cheek, I took her mittened hand in mine and thought, Love, a mother’s love…there’s nothing like it.
Our lives -- and our toes -- wouldn't be the same without you, Mom. Thank you for loving us even when we kept you up at night.
I love you,