First I remember the wind.
Of course, it was my first winter in Wellfleet, huddled near the tip of the Cape on a narrow sandbar inhabited by poets and pirates. If you believe in ghosts and madmen, you would find them there, but only in the winter and the wind. I didn’t know yet that wind had so many ideas.
It was a small cottage hunkered down in the woods surrounded by pine and tall locusts. My body was large with life. A little boy turned inside, using my ribs to pivot on. It was 1980. No one knew about ultrasounds or birth apps. I guessed January. God said, “No, February.” We both agreed it was a boy.
But the wind! At first, I worried with the windows as they shook and shuddered from a northeast hook. Winter trees bowed and danced, grey limbs against the pearl sky and those ugly squatty pines that would never break or die. I began to listen, to wait for the crash of Atlantic fury against the little house and the brave trees, or the steady gusts, searching the walls for cracks that whistled. And sometimes it would come softly, purring like a hungry cat, kicking sand or snow against my door. Or humming a sea shanty, sad and low. It gave the waiting purpose. They said the baby was late. God said Not so.
The boy came like a Nor’easter, not at all like the Lamaze instructor told us. It was like once he knew it was time, it was now. I held him wet and squinty against my skin, his nose pushed to the side. I became Mother. Unaware of all this would require, at least I knew that I was a Great mom on that day. Time stopped and stalled, on February 19th, 1980. There was not even a ripple in the open sea of eternity. A soft breeze from the south teased the crusty shore with a whisper of sweet rosa rugosa and sun-bleached shells.
Strange to think that God had a number of days. Or does He? I think the numbers are for us mortals that need to measure and weigh and configure some order out of a short timeline called Life.
Often the wind was high, playing along the treetops as I sat in a rocker, the baby boy conformed to my chest, his breath angel puffs against my neck. It never dawned on me that a mother would need help, that this could be terrifying. Not holding the little life, but letting it go, the cord cut but always searching. I rocked to the wind song, arms full of possibilities.
Hush little baby don’t you cry, mama’s gonna sing you a lullaby.
Later, we cut down an ugly stumpy pine and dragged it inside, throwing tinsel, popcorn, and cranberries on it. I remember the boy’s eyes when we plugged in the lights, and the smell of the outside inside – salt mixed with pine. His eyes were deep and blue like the winter sea splashed with sun and shadows, and I could tell by the way he looked at me, that I was loved, that I was mom, and he held me too, the Good mom.
When the boy was five, I remember the wind charging up the dunes, blasting sand across a parking lot. Two boys, two bikes, and a hungover mother. Now I was terrified. God, you were in that wind, shaking me. Look up! You were waving a warning and I saw you in the clouds. Surrender collided with mercy – the two boys were my easy answer. I was a mom, not as good as I thought I would be, but innately bound by fierce love, and that was that. I never drank again.
Two years later, You caught me by surprise with a divine breath and a new love song. Spirit- wind. Surrender was joyful now. I was undone and awake. Jesus.
The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord. Job 1:21
February 2002. There was going to be another birthday, for the boy was almost 22. We had plans, but no more days.
In a field on a hill, a casket perches over a black hole. We huddle and sing Jesus songs, and I’m holding my heart like a kite whipping wild in the icy gusts. I know the boy is gone. I’m Bad mom because I lost one.
He’s not here, the preacher said.
Can anyone go get him? Or make sure he’s all right?
Hush little baby, don’t you cry, mamas gonna sing you a lullaby.
Spencer, with the winter ocean eyes, the cord snapped and you are soaring up over the wind and the trees and the cobalt sky, past measured days and time and last breaths. A bird escaped from the fowler’s trap. You have left for Somewhere Better. Jesus leads me from the grave. And He will stay to catch the broken heart pieces falling.
I remember the wind and the song. One reminds me of how little I control, the other of Who does.
February 19th is still now, like snow falling at night. But if I listen real close, I hear a song, a love song that God wrote long ago for a mom who really didn’t know much at all.
I know, I know He calls. I loved the boy best of all. And I am here, I hold your heart, your pain is mine. I am here, sweet child. Hush, don’t cry. I know a song as old as time, it comes from Somewhere Better.
It starts low and sad, then takes flight, God of thunder and stars, tear-catcher, slaying the dark. My Jesus, You alone are Love and Light.