A New Mother's Field Notes
    by Koren Stembridge

Just weeks ago, we sat around the dining room table -- my son's high-chair occupied the position of honor at one end. His parents and grandparents stared lovingly at this beautiful, smart, energetic person -- dressed (I'm sorry, I just couldn't resist) in a plush hat in the shape of a birthday cake with one candle on the top. We celebrated J.J.'s first birthday in grand style, we had cake, there were presents, and the birthday boy was both delighted and delightful. And during the chaos of the celebration, I thought, about how wonderful this year has been. After nine months of anticipation, my son appeared, joyful, needy, complex, and sweet -- and suddenly I was a mother. My lack of experience meant nothing to him, as he is also a novice. We are learning together -- taking turns at giving and receiving.

In twelve short months, there have been a million triumphs, discoveries and experiences -- first laugh, first cheerio, first steps. Is rocked to sleep, sleeps eight hours, and wakes laughing. A roll into a seated position, crawls three steps, uses a table to help stand, and runs away down the hall -- begging to be chased. His development is miraculous -- and yet each and every baby does this -- to the wonderment of everyone who love him.

When I think back on this year, I am aware of the enormous changes in our lives. We have moved to a new home, I have a new job. And yet somehow, these changes are only the scrim behind the action that is really a one-man-show.

On September 11th, I stood in the parking lot outside my play-group -- one of ten mothers standing paralyzed next to the rows of SUVs and minivans. The babies sat quietly in their car seats, strollers, and carriers -- shaking rattles, sucking pacifiers, cooing to stuffed animals. The mothers wept, each of us for our own reasons, but collectively for the loss of so many parents and so many children. We wept in our own vulnerability, in our relief that our children were too young to ask questions. And we knew with certainty that in all of our fierceness and pride, we were powerless to insulate our children from the unspeakable tragedies that are possible in life.

Today he stands on tiptoe, before a tower of cardboard bricks. He has stacked them, end on end, so that they soar over his head. He reaches, gently to set this latest brick atop the stack, and sends the whole pile to the ground. Laughing, he rebuilds, and when he reaches this same precarious moment, he comes to me, uses my leg as a step-ladder, and with a little steadying from his dad, he plunks that last brick -- the pinnacle of his tower.

My son's tower is so symbolic to me -- made of the bricks that will join together to form the structure of his life. His willingness to rebuild that tower, stronger and smarter with each attempt, gives me hope.

Copyright 2002 by {copyauth}

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Wednesday, 04-Sep-2002 22:19:34 EDT

"Recess!" is a co-production of the University of Florida's Center for Children's Literature and Culture and WUFT-FM, "Classic 89."