The salmonberry bushes stain the woods bright green and the sun-soaked dirt path through the old growth trees is a most comforting sight. Mother’s Day is a majestic bittersweet day. Why, you ask? It’s a day of assessment, even though I say it isn’t. I always question my ability to parent my boys the right way. Be kind, be strong, be accepting, don’t lose it, be there. No pressure. Be there. I am. Am I? The boys leave their bikes at home. Walk, mom, no bikes. Sure thing, I love that. It’s late, it’s when baby bats come out and baby humans go to bed. Mine go to bat school tonight then, it is decided. Chatting, hopping, elf-chasing boys are a treat. We snap the soft crunchy tops of salmonberry bushes, peel them hastily and eat them. Watery and barely sweet, they are part of our new spring ritual. We’ve learn of them last year from a First Nations elder at the Musqueam reserve. We trudge through the woods and somehow I know that the boys hold the bouquet of those make-believe late afternoon adventures of mine. In my parents’ backyard, soft grass and green bushes. Back then…
Walk, peel, eat. Try the shoots before they get woody. Meager amounts but somehow plenty. Can I eat the dark skin, mom? I guess… Sasha spits the whole thing out. Laughter. Tangy with a hint of late afternoon forest is better left in the dirt. But how do you know which ones are good to eat? I make up rules that seem logical enough and that’s the kind of confidence that motherhood instills. Mom, a banana slug! The boys roll him to the side of the road. For safety reasons, they explain. Covered in grit and pine needles, the banana slug is saved from big feet and hungry mouths but truth is, its own species would not recognize the poor fellow. Heartfelt intentions, I know that much. Boys are clumsy and beautiful. Thoughtful. Hopping, running, wondering. Questions. Don’t ever stop.
Tony talks about creatures he imagines, stories that have yet to be written. The dark elves are near... Sasha perks up his ears and they both breathe in the dense fragrant forest air. Quiet. Bird songs drop to the ground like rain drops. The boys sudden laughter roll through the soft grasses of my soul. Every now and then Tony looks at me like he’s seeing me for the first time: Happy Mother’s Day. Mother. I am. Happy. The woods are a shell of warmth and I feel closer to the boys than everywhere else.
A small bouquet of purple spring bells wrapped in a red tulip petal. Gift from Sasha on the way to the woods. I put in my pocket so we can hold hands. Later on I notice the purple bells dropped. Trailing behind like bread crumbs they must be. Hansel and Gretel, you know the story? That way I can always find my way back to the jumps and laughter my boys leave behind. How much will I miss their elf-chasing and ferret hopping? I will.
Running creeks, backswimmers and then the way out. It’s been almost two hours. They did it! Happy Mother’s Day! Dawdling, tiredness, whining. Not a shade of inadequacy. I asses myself often and sometimes I get the passing grade. Sometimes I fail. And fall. And get up again. Not today. The toughest thing, the most profound and beautiful transformation of self into a gentle dragon. And the other way around. Fire-breathing begone.
We eat, watch some Peter Pan, hug. Hug. Can I have one more? And one more? Clingy? We all are. My heart has two pairs of legs. Sometimes they kick the ground, sometimes they kick each other, sometimes they kick me and other times they downright dance. Motherhood means learning to walk and run and dance on all four legs. You’d think it’s a given. Sometimes it is, and then it’s not. Grateful, humbled. Happy Mother’s Day.