The sky is wrapped in winter's gray wool and the trees sleep naked, enduring the damp, cold air. The birds huddle together on the branches like little old men in puffy coats. I wish for summer and think of the days we spent at the lake.
I sit in my lounge chair on the beach, a mother on her summer throne, and watch you play. Three sleek little otters in psychededelic swimsuits. Your laughter; high, light and carefree, is caught on each water drop as you splash about. It lands on my legs, my unread book, and the grapes we brought to snack on. I am showered by your joy.
You call me to come join your fun, but I decline. I am the bear who watches her cubs, the guard at the gate of life's catastrophes. The youngest, Claire, doesn't know she can't really swim. I watch her out of the corner of my eye, careful not to let her know so as not to inflame her protestations of being treated like a baby.
She has the courage of the innocent as she swims about the shallows of the cove on her belly in water just deep enough to give the illusion of really swimming. I know her hands tentatively feel the bottom, coon-like, for obstacles she can't see. Only when I hear her blue jay call of "Watch me! Watch me!" am I allowed to look directly at her.
She heads for her sister, Eleanor. She is stalking her prey. I know what's coming next and wait quietly as I watch the drama unfold. Claire is my fearless one, the one who races in laughing to ride life's waves. I am the lifeguard. I am the mom.
Eleanor stands unsuspecting in waist-deep water. The attack is sudden and she startles, a bird taking flight. This middle child of mine moves with the grace of a gazelle, leaping and running up the bank to my side. As she turns to look back, I can see fury storming across her face knitting her brow into thunderclouds. I know this temper, this sudden atomic explosion. I reach up to stroke her arm and pull her close. Long, lithe legs fold to drape me in coconut-scented silk. I am the sanctuary. I am the mom.
I look around for Hannah and see her down the beach. She's somewhere between childhood and womanhood where nothing fits, not even one's own skin. She's looking without looking at two young men nearby. She smiles at them, a demure doe, and does her best to catch the eye of these young bucks. A well-built woman walks by and they notice Hannah less.
I see the moths of self-doubt and insecurity flit inside her eyes and it pains me. I would roar if I thought Hannah would hear how beautiful she is, but I know her body isn't perfect. She doesn't have ears. I hear the young men singing their wolf songs to the well-built woman. Wolves can't hurt me anymore. I have traveled the path to womanhood and sing these lessons to my daughter now as I walk to her side. My movements are the melody, proud and confident. Hannah listens with her eyes. I am the guide. I am the mom.
By Desiree R.