Yesterday, Jonathan woke up to eight years of living quietly slipping into nine. It’s a strange thing to watch it ebb away day by day, leaving so little changed, until one day it is gone altogether and a new year has begun.
This was the year of third grade, of lost teeth and a military haircut like Daddy’s that almost broke Mom’s heart into two. It was a year counted out in 52 one-dollar bills from helping Mrs. Smith with her chores each week, and parsed out in rows and rows of yarn knit together in the sugary presence of a grandmother who ran out of grandchildren before she ran out of cookies.
It was the year of being the man of the house, of counting and waiting and being brave while other boys, bigger boys, got to have his daddy instead of him.
It was an Army year.
Daddy said it was work but there were obstacle courses and war simulations and MREs and one amazing ride in a Black Hawk, and it doesn’t take a genius to know what’s playing and what’s not.
It was a year of bike crashes and skinned knees and chopping down a real tree with a real ax all by himself while Mom tried not to watch from the kitchen window and Dad said lots of words about how it would be fine because there’s nothing better for a boy than chopping down a real tree with a real ax. That’s something a man could do, and being eight, almost nine, is just half-way to being a grown-up man.
Mom turned away when he said it because it couldn’t be true.
But there was a grin on the face of an eight-year-old boy, almost nine, when he hauled that heavy green stump up the hill, triumphant, that made his mother think he was already more a man than she had realized, and a little bit of that baby boy of hers slipped away while she wasn’t looking.
He was born on an Easter, the first-born son of a mother who was trying to be brave about having two children nineteen months apart when she didn’t think she hadn’t quite recovered from the idea of having any.
He was a week overdue, growing fat and heavy inside a mother who felt fat and heavy, and fearful too. She wasn’t sure she could do it, could have a baby in the normal way when the first had been turned upside down and had to come out with the help of surgeons and white lights and room that was all at once pure and mean.
She wasn’t sure she could have another baby when the sutures in her heart were still so fresh. The rawness of dark memories and wicked tears stung her mind, and she wondered if she was healthy enough to love a second baby when the love for the first had just begun to drip in. She wasn’t sure she had enough to spare.
But it was Easter.
And the angels were dancing on a stone that was too heavy to roll away and there was life creeping back in where the stench of death hung low. There was redemption and the miracle of resurrection revealed to harlot eyes.
It was Easter, and that mother was the first to feel the miracle flush across her face.
The nurses placed that heavy baby boy across her chest, and there was no terror and there was no fear because the miracle was too big and there wasn’t any room left. It was pushing out the darkness and sweeping up the remnants of guilt and sadness over what had been and left hope for what was yet to be.
That little boy grew up into smiles that were too big for his face and a laughter that was too big for the room. He loved everyone, and he loved his sister most of all, so much that he filled up some of the love she was lacking for him until one day, she realized she loved him right back. They were thick as thieves, Faith and Jonathan, Jonathan and Faith.
Their mother would hold them together on her lap with story books all around and wonder why God would bother to raise the dead when the living were all around.
Perhaps it is because He is the only one who can.
Yesterday, when eight years slipped quietly into nine, that mother stopped a moment and thought about it all, holding it up in her heart because it was too precious to put down anywhere else. She thought about how some things can ebb away, little by little, so you hardly even notice. Then one day, you look, and it is gone, and something better has taken its place.
100 Beautiful Days of Motherhood: 38