Memory is a funny thing. It can recall the most random of moments and erase the most necessary facts. It will remind you of what you wish you could forget and deny you the very thing for which your mind searches. Memory does what it wants, when it wants. Try as we might, we cannot bend it to our will… and sometimes the harder we search, the more elusive the memory becomes. One of my deepest fears is that I will forget the moments I hold most dear. I feel some memories already slipping away, details getting fuzzy and growing hazy with the passing of time. Some have fallen away altogether, never to be recovered. It hurts to know that a few of those memories include Mason, my very precious boy.
I’d gladly give up memories of my failures in exchange for memories of his laughter, or trade memories of my own childhood to savor memories of his. That’s not how it works though, is it? When I get a glimpse of a moment I’ve had with him, I try to stop and focus on it and re-memorize every detail. What was he wearing, how did he smell, was he laughing, did his lip twitch with a hint of humor, did he crinkle up his nose or wink at me or flip his hair or… ? Sometimes I’ll be doing a completely mundane task and a totally unrelated memory pops into my head that makes me stop and laugh at the hilarity of him. The joy he brought me. Other times, I’ll be consumed once again by grief and tears will flood my eyes and I’ll repent again for the failed effort or harsh word or lapse of judgment. How I wish I had been a perfect mom. I haven’t met one yet, but I would give my right arm to have another chance to be the first.
There will be no more mothering from me, no more shmuvvering, no more mistakes in that department and… no more special moments. I have accepted that now, some thirteen hundred and fifty two days later. Oh but the memories! Those special mama moments. The good ones fill my heart with gratitude and joy. The bad ones? Well, they’re my penance. My punishment. My regret. I’ll take them all and replay them all until they too fade into the recesses of my mind. I wonder what I will recall when I am 92 or 67 or 81. Seems like a cruel fate to have to live that long without him but other mothers have managed. As will I.
For Mason’s 18th birthday, I took trip to Vietnam with my cousin-of-sorts. Mase called her his Aussie mum and they were thick as thieves. It seemed fitting to be traveling with her when our boy’s 18th birthday rolled around. I certainly didn’t want to be home. I’m soaking up new sights and smells, creating new memories, lighting incense for my boy (he LOVED incense), and reminiscing on the gift he was to me all those years ago. What an incredibly beautiful baby boy. On the day of his birth, I received the greatest gift of MY life.
At the Women’s Museum in Hanoi, I saw pictures of women who had been honored by their country for losing sons to the war. One woman lost 7 sons. SEVEN! My heart ached for her as I tried to imagine experiencing this pain seven times over. She deserved more than a medal, for sure, but how beautiful that her country recognized her sacrifice and mourned with her. I celebrate with her in my heart as I picture the day she left this world and was reunited with her boys. I bet she ran full speed toward them and threw herself into their arms. I can imagine the tears of joy and the laughter and the hugs and squeezes all around. I cannot wait for my turn. I will run.
I remember Mason’s last birthday with me. His 14th. I bought him red bull and running shoes and a special cupcake. He was returning home from church snow camp that day and something was ‘off’ but he didn’t want to talk it about when I picked him up. He asked me to drive home quickly, so I did. And once we were out of sight from all of his friends, he cried. He told me his heart had been broken by a girl. She had broken up with him on his birthday and he was crushed. Totally devastated. I hurt for him that day and silently wished things had been different. I wanted his birthday to be so very special and had looked forward to seeing him all day. I wanted to show him how much he mattered to me and I got him his favorite things. I had the card and cupcake and candles ready. The red bull was on display… I rarely let him have them and knew he would be thrilled to have SIX to drink whenever he chose.
Seeing him so sad hurt my mama heart. I felt powerless to cheer him up and knew that no words would take away that feeling of loss. He put on a happy face for me as he walked into the house and saw his ‘gifties’ on display. I asked if he wanted to talk about things but he declined and said he wanted to be alone for a bit to collect himself. I wanted to fight the whole world for hurting my boy, even though I knew that sometimes that is exactly what the world (and other humans) do. Later that evening, we spent time together. He had a red bull and I ate his cupcake. Hahaha! Sometimes I wondered if he was switched with another baby at the hospital because he never really loved sugar like I did. However, since he was never once out of my sight during our hospital stay, I knew that wasn’t true… and of course he was gorgeous and funny and brilliant, so you know he was a Chamberlain! Hahaha!
That moment passed and his heart bounced back. ‘14’ was a big year and I looked forward to so many more with him. I wish he was with me in Vietnam right now. He would LOVE the food and the shopping and the coffeeeeeeee! He would be delighted with the temples and burn incense at every single one. He would eat twice his body weight in Pho and laugh his head off at the sights and sounds of ‘Naaaam. On February 16th, Mase would be 18. He would be challenging every rule, finding ways to exert his independence even more, and pushing the limits with me at every turn. I just know it.
February 16, 1999 was one of my favorite days. I will never, ever forget the feel of him, finally outside of my body. The weight of him. All 9 pounds, 14 ounces. The squishiness of him, my very little Shmish. I will never forget asking to spend one more day in the hospital because I was afraid to take him home. I was afraid I would mess it all up. I didn’t know what to do or how to be a mother.I soon learned, but I will never forget those very first moments with him. The trust. He nursed and he snuggled and he loved me like I had never been loved before. And I loved him like no one before or since. What a gift he was to me on his birthday. My one and only.
One day, it will be my turn to leave this world. I cannot wait for the day when I see his beautiful face again. For now, I savor the memories of the best fourteen years of my life. I relish the reminders of him, I crave the connections he makes between this world and the next when he gives me little signs that he is there and waiting, and I hope for time to pass quickly between now and the day I get to see him again.
My sweet, funny, beautiful boy. Happy 18th birthday to you. You have my whole heart. Forever. Still.
It’s just me.
Forever your Shmuvver…