I am watching my son dance his first dance with his wife. Foreheads touching, lips moving in a conversation no one else can hear, arms looped around the other’s neck, leaning together in a careless box step. Why do we make a spectacle of something so sacred?
I look away. And then I notice the black and white row of our three other sons behind them. Their arms are draped behind each other’s backs and they are swaying to the music. Swaying. Together. Like a mother who never forgets how to move back and forth when a child needs soothing, I sway in time with them from the other side of the dance floor. I am struck by how substantial this image is. It is a symbol of how things really are. No myth, this musical moment between our sons. They are touching because their lives touch. Their hearts, too.
There was a day, not that long ago, when I could not have imagined this. Those days, as a mother, I used to pray for a cumulative fifteen minutes of encouragement a year. I got more than that, but some years not much more. Measured out in split second windows of perspective, these visuals kept me going as a mom. A small strand of kindness might be woven into a day filled with brotherly strife. The boy who acted monstrously the day before would say or do something so sweet, so obedient, so right, I would be filled with enough hope to last a month. We were on the right track. We would make it. I could laugh a little more lightly. And then it was back to simply believing all would be well…until the next window opened up.
But this is not like that. It isn’t foreshadowing, it is substance. It isn’t hope for the future; it is life in the present. This is satisfying and real. I mean, it’s worth a party.
I watch them sway. And then I remember something so startling I almost laugh out loud. Or cry. I can’t decide which.
The day after summer camp. Our two oldest were whatever age places them on the shore of that vast sea called adolescence. One toe each in the water, testing it out. They are telling me all about camp and they are making fun of something. (It seems they are always making fun of something. I’m just happy when it isn’t each other.) Today they are telling me how annoying the girls were, of course, forgetting that I am a girl. The girls drove them crazy during the singing around the campfire. Those silly girls. They locked arms and swayed. Every night. It was so dumb.
I’m picturing what my sons must have been like around that campfire. I’m sure they did what boys that age do when obliged to sit still. Nothing. They were too busy looking out to sea—to that ocean of teenage years that beckons all boys like a pirate ship’s raised flag—too busy planning their getaway to participate in the moments adults orchestrate for them. Too busy entering the life-on-my-own-terms season to enjoy life in our universe. Perpetually distracted, that’s what they were like. And they stayed that way for what seemed like a long time.
It isn’t hope for the future; it is life in the present. This is satisfying and real.
And now…now they look so handsome in their crisp black and white. Ties loosened and lapels punctuated with a spray of green. From here, the ocean of those final boyhood years looks like a pond. From the perspective of this far shore, it was a wading pool where we splashed and had fun. The battles fought on the open seas of adolescence have taken on legendary, but smaller, proportions. Around countless dinner tables where we have met as peers, I have let them retell it all to me. And it has become funnier and easier in the telling. Gone the fear and doubt. Gone the desperate clinging to any sign of hope that they would actually grow up. That they would learn how to love, or at least how to tolerate each other.
Now they are swaying. Because they want to, they are locked in a manly embrace. The song ends and they stay together for a moment longer. As if reluctant to let go. This, this, is the most beautiful sight I have ever seen.
Image courtesy of Stills by Hernan.
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You’ll enjoy this podcast episode from This Grit and Grace Life: Dear Mom! Be Encouraged on Mother’s Day (and Beyond) – 039!