I stared for a few minutes at the email from my son asking me if I needed anything.  He meant for Christmas, of course; but my heart leapt.  What doesn’t a mother need?  A time machine, to undo the mistakes and reclaim the hours?  Another day, to see the toddler creep across the yard trying to put salt on a bird’s tail because his mother said that her father told her that’s how you catch a bird?

His note continued to assure me that he himself needed nothing.  I smiled.  Two presents already have been ordered and soon will arrive in Chicago.  I’m building a box here at home and will soon strap it closed and tender it to the postal service.  We have just seen each other for my birthday, a glorious fall post-pandemic weekend in St. Louis with one sister and one brother.  I will be alone on Christmas with my memories of Decembers which have slipped into the past.  

But I cannot be sad.  My tiny house holds so many gifts that my son has given me.   His artwork adorns my walls.  A little clay pot sits on one shelf with a red paper heart inside, bearing his kindergarten script:  I hope you like the gift that I have for you.  Anemone shells hang from my window next to stained glass pieces which he made in elementary school.  The shells came with air plants in a box two years ago.  The air plants did not survive but the shells dangle and clink against the glass, reminding me of the sea.

Everywhere I turn, my son’s touch gleams from a surface or the contents of a neatly arranged drawer.  My morning coffee sits on a Chicago coaster that he sent.  Beneath my favorite plein air piece from a Kansas artist, I’ve hung a goofy photograph which Penny Thieme took of my son and me one Christmas.  Don’t be so serious, she scolded.  Look like Corleys.  He obligingly plopped down on my lap and we both laughed with unrestrained hilarity.

Today I am in Grass Valley at an AirBnB nestled among the cedars.  In a little while, I will drive three miles to the home of the woman for whom I work.  I’ll join her friends at brunch and then go with them to a Victorian Christmas in Nevada City.  I’ll browse the pottery, hoping to find a mug to replace my favorite hand-thrown thrifted find which I shattered in the sink.  There will not be snow but I will imagine that I’m strolling the streets of Kansas City, the Plaza lights surrounding me, my young son walking a bit ahead.  I’ll stop, close my eyes, and picture the intense look on his face as he thought about what he would sneak away to buy me for Christmas when we got to Barnes and Noble.  I’ll imagine us taking the escalator to the second floor.  I’ll walk again to the counter with him, to order hot chocolate and an Americano.  In my mind we will sit again at a table by the wall, and talk about Christmas, and the gifts that we will give to our friends.  

And my heart will be full, as it has been for thirty years, since the hot July day when he came into my life and gave me the one thing only a son can give:  the right to call myself a boy mom.

It’s the fifth day of the ninety-sixth month of My Year Without Complaining.  Life continues.


Christmas 2017, my first in Angel’s Haven, my tiny house.

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