My mom sits in the dwindling light of the evening, cradling my daughter in her arms. She’s sideways in an over-sized chair, head down, oblivious to the world outside the little baby below. We’ve been trying to get Ivy to go to sleep.
Softly, she sings. It’s hard to make out from my spot two rooms over, but as I focus, I pick out the unmistakable cadence of “Hush, Little Baby.” My mom sings a lot, and aloud, and I’m often amazed at the breadth of her repertoire. She’ll move seamlessly from show tunes into Disney, then slip casually into Motown or some 80s hit.
But there’s something about a lullaby. I was too young to remember her singing them to me, but here she is, singing them word for word to my daughter. For the first time in 31 years, I see my mother as she was when she was my age, when I relied on her most of all.
She continues the song, reciting verse after verse. At the next, she falters a little, unsure of the next rhyme.
Every mom has a superpower. Given how much a baby relies on them, and how much of themselves they have to sacrifice, it’d be impossible to survive if they didn’t come equipped with some superhuman abilities. My mom’s is the ability to keep going, without blinking, in the face of absurdity and adversity. To call her strong or brave would be a disservice; she possesses innate, boundless courage and fearlessness of unforeseeable future.
She mumbles a little, but doesn’t let that stop her from moving into the next verse. I can see Ivy’s eyes fluttering; she’s fading as fast as the sunset and the light in the room. She loops back to the first verse, still sitting still, eyes still focused, powered by equal parts motherly duty and grandmotherly enamor.
My mom turns 60 today. I’ve gotten so used to her as an adult mom – the funny friend you owe your life to, but almost view as a peer – that these fleeting moments of vulnerability and flashes of her own motherhood catch me off guard. Watching her with Ivy gives me a rare window into how she was with me, and in those moments I see just how much of her there is in me, and how much of me will likely be in her.
The love of a parent cascades. It falls onto you and pools; collecting, nurturing, supporting, until it’s finally time for you to pass it on when you become a parent yourself. The love of a grandparent acts as a multiplier. Just when you thought they’d given you all the love you needed to raise your own kids, they muster more – not just for you, but for everyone around them.
Ivy is asleep now. There’s barely any light left, but I can still see the shadowy outline of my mom’s gentle rocking. She’s still looking down, still cherishing. I want to thank her, tell her how much she means and how much her love has made me the man I am today.
But I don’t want to wake the baby.
And somehow, I think she already knows.