Motherhood and The Sign

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“I’ve lost Bryan. Now I’m going to lose Annie.”

What can a mother say? That they are going to visit Bryan next year? Next year! A lifetime away. “I don’t want to just visit him in the holidays. I want him to play on the usual days.”

Oh, Lord! To know so young that life isn’t a holiday, but a day-by-day everyday experience.

Susan had tried the old ploy: “You’ll make new friends at Beavers.” David only wailed “I don’t want new friends. I’ve got enough friends. I just want them to stay still.”

Don’t we all?

“Well, try to make the most of the time you have together now.” Who is she kidding? Once you’ve eaten of the tree of knowledge, the garden, their shared garden of screams and laughter, can never be the same again.

God, how she loves him, and how he annoys her! Her serious ultra-sensitive first-born. Theirs will probably never be an easy relationship. He reminds her too much of herself for that. Someday he may be a writer, or an actor, or a poet. Or even a saint, but right now she’d gladly trade in all of David’s giftedness for the sunny disposition and carefree ways of his younger brother Brendan. As if on cue, Brendan interrupts his incessant singing long enough to ask “I’ll see Tommy at my school next year, right, Mummy?”

“Yes, you’ll see Tommy.” She doesn’t add, But not at nursery school. You’ll both be in junior kindergartens in different parts of the city. She doesn’t need to. How fortunate to be like Brendan and hear only what you want to hear. If only they could transplant characteristics as easily as they do organs. Or take away guilt with the placenta. For a mother, the law of innocent until proven guilty doesn’t seem to apply. Annie’s move. Bryan’s daddy’s new job. Tommy’s new school. The fact that such events are completely beyond her control, outside her shere of influence, even none of her business, is totally irrelevant. One look at the anguish in her child’s eyes and Susan knows she’s to blame. For not stemming the tide of change, for not holding back the irrevocable passage of time. Guilty as charged.

David and Annie have found sticks and are hacking away at the sign. When it doesn’t fall, they turn on each other. Anger is easier to deal with than grief.

Why didn’t anyone tell her it was going to be like this? Oh, child of mine. Flesh of my flesh. Spirit of my spirit. She had expected a metamorphosis—to become unselfish, even-tempered, uncomplaining, cheerfully coping with any crisis. Instead, and especially in the last while, she finds her old faults still trying to take over, only now they are matched and occasionally overwhelmed by a love for her sons so heartbreakingly and surprisingly intense that it sets every fibre of her being a-quiver.

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Sheila Scotchmer, late wife of Peter Scotchmer, died of cancer in 1992. She had been an English teacher like him, and was at that time a stay-at-home mom.
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