I’m not sure how it is that I get so lucky as to host some of the most beautiful writing on the Internet, but this is what keeps happening when I have a guest writer. Today it is my privilege to host Hilary Yancey. I didn’t realize how much I needed to read this. May it be true for you as well.
Two days before my wedding, my mom drove me through the winding streets of downtown Ipswich, taking the longest possible route to our Starbucks (I think we must all have this kind of place, this large but anonymous place that becomes our own). We ordered passion tea lemonades. We ordered cookies and those vanilla bean scones my mother always acknowledges are going to be dry, but eats anyway.
We lingered for so long in the parking lot until there wasn’t any more time; my sister had planned a bachelorette dinner and so off I went, into the future – a future that I painted as full of new roles—wife, graduate student, Texan, mother—but somehow had left out the colors for daughter.
When my son was born, I reentered a need for my mother. She came to the quiet campfire of NICU monitors and again to bake blueberry muffins in a borrowed kitchen for Christmas morning brunch. She sat with me for hours as I pumped milk for Jack, she read and knitted and kept watch with me while I held him as he slept on me, time after time.
And then when the seasons had waved their spindly fingers and we were back in September, my son turning one and my heart learning that depression had been walking alongside me, unannounced, my mother came again. She came to drink tea, to sit with cheese and crackers on the porch swing in the fading October sun. She came to sit with me and puzzle the weight of such change. She found a Starbucks on campus to make our own for a day or two.
Becoming a mother taught me to be a daughter again. To let the bones and muscles that had pulled and pushed my son into the world sink into her familiar mattress on a Saturday morning; to let the sun that streams through the ancient windows of the second story of my childhood home warm my face and lull me to sleep.
Almost three years from the frenzied weeks of my wedding and I went home for a few days alone. My mother and I took a long drive to our Starbucks and went back an even longer way, talking just fast and just slow enough.
We drank chai lattes and chose pumpkin bread over the vanilla scones. We stopped at Plum Island beach just because. We walked freezing along the edge of the country and saw the wilderness of water in its misting, grey-blue activity. The wind cut at our cheeks and we both needed a hat. We thrust our hands in our pockets and my Toms filled with sand, the hours fading in the brightness of being who we are to each other: mother, and daughter, friend and friend.
Is it a long myth of growing up, that we cease to be children? We cannot be anything without first being someone’s child; we cannot outgrow that first and softest skin; we need not.
“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!” (Luke 13:34, NRSV)
Hilary Yancey is mama to Jack, wife to Preston and in the midst of getting a PhD in philosophy from Baylor University.
When she isn’t chasing an idea, a busy toddler, or learning the first few steps in her adult beginner ballet class, you can find her writing at her blog The Wild Love or on Instagram at @hilaryyancey.
One more thing: there is a photo that was taken moments after Hilary’s son Jack was born and it’s one I will never, ever forget. I remember where I was when I saw it for the first time, that is how powerful it is. (Okay so I scroll back through her Instagram from time to time just to see it, sue me.) Whenever I see it now, even though I know it’s coming, I still tear up because her face and that moment, well. It is exquisite.