"What time is it?" I wondered silently.
The morning sun crept through the hotel window like a calculated intruder. Slowly, I willed myself to open my eyes. It dawned on me instantly that I had awaken from my slumber entirely on my own. The A/C hummed in the space normally occupied by the sound of my husband's breathing. I lay there in the stillness of the morning for a while, feeling strangely rested and unsure of what to do with myself.
Finally, I turned over to see my mother, sleeping peacefully beside me. Even with no makeup on, and first thing in the morning, she was beautiful. Her face was completely relaxed, her rosy lips closed in a perfectly ladylike way. I noted the absence of morning drool and studied her chemical-free hair, scattered about in a dozen or so now-fuzzy twists as a result of tossing and turning. She never wrapped her hair at night, and I loved her for it. I, on the other hand, was wearing a silk black bonnet in a last-ditch effort to preserve my week-old twist-out.
"Do you wear a scarf on your head at night?" she had asked me one day, not long after my husband and I were married.
"Sure do," I replied, quickly adding, "when I'm not feeling lazy."
"Oh Chrissy," she said incredulously. "Take that scarf off at night. Musa doesn't want to lay in bed beside you with your hair all wrapped up! The poor thing."
It was funny to think my mom cared about whether I wore my hair out when I slept. I smiled to myself and lay there motionless for a while, studying the freckles on her face that mirrored my own. When restlessness set in, I grabbed my journal and crept into the living room to lose myself in the silence.
It was a beautiful morning. Outside our hotel window, men and women in dark-colored business suits emerged from expensive cars, disappearing with an air of confidence down the street. The sun peeked from behind the clouds, covering the day in a warm, romantic glow. There was a balanced energy and calm, and I wanted to exist right there in the middle of it for as long as I could. It was the last place I imagined myself on Mother's Day weekend, but it was exactly where I needed to be.
* * *
"I was thinking, it might be nice if you came away with me and mommy next weekend." My sister's voice was cheery as usual over the phone as Lincoln and I played with Legos in our living room. "I want to do something for you too since you're a mother."
Since you're a mother. It was my third Mother's Day and yet the thought that the day was as much about me as it was my own mother was still a foreign concept that felt strange.
"Oh wow. That's so sweet of you!" My voice took on an overly high-pitched tone - the one reserved for genuine excitement.
"I thought it would be nice to do a girls' trip with just us," she said, and I could tell, even over the phone, that she was smiling.
"That sounds like fun. I'd love to go. How long are you guys staying?" I brought my phone and our conversation into the kitchen where my husband was hovering over the sink, washing dishes. He looked at me questioningly, no doubt wondering what I was committing to now.
"We're leaving Friday night and coming back Sunday morning."
"Mmm," I replied as the wheels turned in my head. Two nights. The reservations came immediately. I felt guilty about asking Musa to watch our son for the entire weekend, especially at the last minute. Our shared Google calendar was already jam-packed with events we'd committed to attend - a birthday party, our city's annual Main Street festival, his co-worker's fight party. Most of all, I worried about how I would feel being away from my son on the weekend I would be celebrated for being his mother.
"You can even bring Lincoln with you," my sister added, no-doubt sensing my newfound hesitation. Except I knew right away I didn't want to bring him along. It sounds like a horrible thing to say, but the allure of a girls' weekend, is being with the girls, after all.
"Um, okay. Let me talk to Musa and I'll get back to you." I ended the conversation hopeful, but was careful not to let myself get too excited.
Back when Musa and I were in marriage counseling, the couple who counseled us (good friends) gave us some very practical advice for making decisions as newlyweds. It was a method they'd employed successfully over the course of their 10+ year marriage. We listened eagerly.
"If you're asking your spouse to weigh in on a decision, and they don't respond with an enthusiastic yes, that's usually a good indication it's something you want to hold off on," they told us. We'd joked about it in the days that followed as we meticulously planned our wedding.
"Should we go with the more expensive dinner menu, honey?" I asked.
"I guess, if you really want to," Musa would respond after asking what the price difference would be.
"Is that an enthusiastic yes?" I'd tease.
It was an oversimplified philosophy of course - one that didn't work in every single situation - but a good rule of thumb nonetheless that worked practically for us over the years. And so I tempered my hopes as I ended the call with my sister, just in case my husband's yes was less than enthusiastic.
"What is it?" Musa asked, half-smiling, knowing I was preparing to ask something of him.
"My sister wants to take me and mom away for Mother's Day weekend," I said slowly, watching his face closely.
"For how long?"
"Friday through Sunday."
He glanced at me for a second.
"There's a lot going on this weekend."
"I know," I said, then paused before adding, "I don't know if I should go. What do you think?"
"We'll have to plan it out, but I think we can make it work. You should go," he said, glancing at me sideways, then turning his attention back to the dishes. I stood there silently for a few minutes to see if he was joking.
"Really?" I asked. "I feel kind of bad sticking you with Lincoln for the whole weekend." I was giving him an out and he knew it. If he said no, I'd let it go and wouldn't make him feel bad about it.
This time, he didn't even look up from the dishes. "First of all, he's my son," he said, with another sly grin. "It's not a big deal for me to watch my son. And second," he added, "if it were me, I would go."
Just like that, it was settled.
* * *
"Your sister said she was taking us away to rest, but I don't want to rest. I want to get out and walk the strip and see the shops," my mother told me as we coordinated details on when we would arrive at the hotel and what we would do.
We walked for miles through the quaint town, exploring consignment stores, boutiques, ice cream parlors and stationary shops (our personal favorite). It was, a lovely day for walking - the first without rain in some time. The small town was bustling with the energy of people who for too long had been cramped in their houses and offices, unable to roam about freely. We shared admiration for cute trinkets, soy candles and greeting cards. My sister bought a dress and some shoes. My mother bought some pants. And I, the pregnant one, spent all my money on food :-)
Later that day, we discovered the Torpedo Factory Art Center, a building I'd passed a million times but never explored. Inside, we browsed studio after studio where artists sold original paintings, handmade jewelry and sculptures. Some of the artists were hard at work as we passed by, dying fabric, polishing precious metals and making calculated brush strokes on half-colored canvasses. Watching them, I felt as though I were witnessing something sacred. They were completely immersed in another world it seemed, unaware of life happening all around them.
I wondered how much it cost to rent the studios, knowing the artist's life is not an easy one. "If they sell one piece a week, they're probably doing good," my mom said. I knew she was right. The price tags on their masterpieces were hefty - in the thousands of dollars. It was odd, really. I thought of the small art sections I frequently browsed in Home Goods and Marshalls. The paintings were always reasonably priced in the double digits, ending in ninety-nine cents. But this was different. These were not prints. They were original. And in America, we pay for originality. I thought of my writing and the possibilities, and was inspired.
* * *
Sunday morning came without warning. I woke to a call from my sister asking what I wanted from Starbucks (she's the sweetest). I didn't even have to think twice.
"Vanilla Chai, please. What do you want mom?"
My mother and I sipped our beverages in bed while I browsed through text messages from close friends and family wishing me a happy Mother's Day. I sent my mother my own "Happy Mother's Day" text even though she was laying right beside me, sure I was the first. I later learned that my oldest brother had called her the night before. Sneaky.
It was 7a. Our son usually wakes up around 6:30, which meant my husband would be calling soon to wish me a Happy Mother's Day. My mom and I got up to shower. I played my Fred Hammond station on Pandora and sang while ironing my clothes and packing up our things.
7a came and went. No word from Musa. 8a arrived unexpectedly. My irritation grew. How was it that my friends had thought enough to text me first thing in the morning and there was nothing from my husband? I wondered if he'd gone to the 9a service at our church. My mother urged me to give grace, but my emotions (or the pregnancy hormones, I'm not sure which) got the best of me.
By 9:30a, I gave in and sent him a cold text.
"Did you go to early service?"
"Yes. Call you when we're done. Rough morning because he slept late. SMH."
Immediately I felt guilty. I imagined Musa getting both himself and Lincoln ready for church, which wasn't the easiest task, even when there were two of us. I woke up that morning energized and excited for the day. I can only imagine how Musa woke up that day. Groggy. Exhausted, probably. But he had done it. For me. It was the most thoughtful Mother's Day present of all.
My husband arrived home from church at the same time my sister was dropping me off. I thanked her again for a truly beautiful weekend.
Just then, Lincoln emerged from the backseat of our car smiling his signature grin and wearing an adorable t-shirt that read, "Ain't a woman alive that can take my mama's place." My heart melted. I kissed my husband sweetly. It felt good to be home.
We walked to the house together, Musa carrying my luggage and me holding Lincoln's tiny hand. Inside, there were two cards waiting for me. I opened Lincoln's first, smiling at his name scribbled in colored crayon at the bottom. He sat at the Mickey Mouse table his grandparents had given him for his birthday and watched me read it from start to finish, beaming as I praised him. Next came my husband's card. As soon as I opened it, an Aveda gift card slipped out and onto the kitchen floor. I shrieked with joy, jumping up to hug him, my arms tightly clasped around his neck.
About a week after purchasing an expensive face cream at Aveda some months ago (I highly recommend the Skin Botanicals line in case you were wondering), I came into our room to find our son happily rubbing together two handfuls of the fragrant white cream as though he were washing his hands. I watched in horror. I unknowingly left the top off the jar, to his delight. Instinctively, he had scooped out what he could hold in his chubby hands. I gasped in horror. Only a tablespoon or so remained untouched in the jar, and there was no way to salvage what was on his hands. I sulked, but I was to blame.
Even though the cream worked wonders on my face, I couldn't bring myself to buy another jar of it so soon. Not when we were on one income and trying to eliminate debt. I'd complained to my husband, as I do often about other random things, and I was realizing now that he had listened. And noticed. And given me yet another thoughtful gift. #swoon
There were other things waiting for me at home. Three baskets of laundry I'd washed but hadn't found time to fold the week before. A sink full of dishes from a busy weekend spent managing a toddler alone. I smiled as I took the sponge from its metal cubby in the sink and began to put our house back in order. And it didn't hit me until that moment, as I was joyfully washing the dishes, how much one weekend had changed my perspective.
I was happily cleaning our house, which seemed like an oxymoron of sorts. I should mention that I am usually happy to clean our house, because of the personal gratification and pride it gives me, but this time was different. I was proud to contribute to our house. It gave me joy to wash the dishes, and fold the clothes and sweep the floors because I realized that I was serving two of the people who mattered most in my life in the same graceful way they had served me this weekend.
In those moments, I realized the truth of my son's t-shirt. Few things were certain in life. But even if something happened to me, or God forbid, my family, I would always, always be my son's mother. My sweet sister and loving husband had given me the greatest of all this Mother's Day: rest.