December 22, 2022 by The Citron Review
by Billie Hinton
What I wanted to be when I grew up:
A childhood dream is a _________.
Having children is _____________.
A mother is a marine biologist. Pregnancy its own deep dive into ocean waters. The songs of humpback whales a listening. Tiny movements in amniotic fluid.
A mother does not swim with octopuses nor study them in tanks. But she breastfeeds while typing. Sleeps with toddlers in the family bed. Carries groceries to the car with two young children who do not want to hold her hand even if she had one free. They hold on to her clothing, forming a large 12-limbed unit that crawls across the parking lot as if it is the ocean floor.
A mother is a veterinarian. Integrating cats with new babies, teaching children the art of gentle touch. Cats, hamsters, hermit crabs.The moment when Stella eats Bob and the discussion that ensues: We’re mad at Stella! She’s just doing what hermit crabs do. Puppies and ponies, a horse for mom.
A mother is Jane Goodall. Offspring clinging, nursing, crying, crawling, climbing, vocalizing, becoming upright and mobile. Mothering is primate research.
A mother is a therapist both in her office and at home: listener, healer, dispenser of bandaids and rescue remedy. Mediator when a neighbor’s granddaughter says everyone who doesn’t believe in god is going to hell. Your children do not believe in god. When the granddaughter says she was sexually abused by her stepfather your children bring her to you. Our mother’s a therapist, they assure her. She knows what to do.
A mother is a teacher. Homeschooling is lying on the ground watching ants march. Editing made-up essays with blood red pens. Reading books out loud until they learn to read themselves, and even then, a mother reads out loud at bedtime, discusses characters and story arcs, the way words work. Eating at a dining table that houses a microscope, LEGO projects, knitting, artwork still in progress. Homeschooling is not worksheets. It is word of the day in three languages on a chalk board in the kitchen. Tree frogs on sliding glass doors, organs visible through transparent skin.
A mother writes a novel, not during the year of her first pregnancy, which was her plan, not during the year of her second pregnancy, when the writing desk she buys is decorated with purple marker by her firstborn, but in stolen hours on Thursday afternoons in a coffee shop called the Third Place.
When she queries it and checks the mailbox every day for longer than she cares to admit, the firstborn notices, tells her on the day she stops checking that she must go to the mailbox, and when she says no, he insists. She finds a post box full of letters he has written, envelopes delivered without stamps, addressed to Mom, handwritten notes with hearts and I love you, a beaming child waiting at the door when she brings them in, happy salt water on her face.
A mother is not a PhD student in marine biology, veterinary medicine, primatology, psychology, literature, or astronomy, though when her babies go off to study astrophysics and neurobiology, she wants to be.
Longing is not regret.
A mother is not a scientist.
But she has nurtured two.
A mother is a watcher of the night sky. Fingernail moon, Apache moon, reclining moon. The full moon is a hole paper-punched into the darkness, opening to something she wanted once to be. Setting up telescopes to view the lunar eclipse. Naming stars. Wishing on those that fell, years back, that her children be born safe, happy, and, for their entire lives, longing.
Billie Hinton lives on a small farm with horses and donkeys, cats, Corgis, bees, native plants, and a Golden Retriever who believes in love. on Twitter: @novemberhill and more recently also on Mastodon: @email@example.com