When I was growing up, my mom and her friends sang a beautiful song every year in church called “Mary’s Lullaby.” I have never – ever – listened to the song without crying; however, it took on new meaning once I became a mother. In the song, Mary contemplates the future of her baby - his journey, pain, crucifixion, and divine royalty. But as she contemplates his future, she, the mother of God, cherishes the moments of having him to herself, of rocking him the way every other mother rocks an infant.
All mine in your loveliness, baby, all mine;
All mine in your holiness, baby divine.
Sing on, herald angels, in chorus sublime;
Sing on and adore,
For tonight you are mine.
When I look at my children, I imagine their futures. Perhaps they will teach little children. Perhaps they will heal the sick. Perhaps they will discover innovative ways to conserve energy, or cure diseases, or slow the impact of climate change.
Perhaps they will marry young; perhaps old. Perhaps they will never marry. Inevitably, their hearts will be broken, and they will have to draw on inner reserves of strength in order to find their paths. I hope to watch them walk across many stages, to receive diplomas and awards and honors and flowers. I hope to kiss their cheeks when they find true love; to weep tears of joy into the eyes of their own newborns. I hope for so very many things.
But maybe, maybe, maybe (breathe) tragedy will strike me or (God forbid) – them. I agonize every day about their futures – what will bring them joy, and what will break them into pieces and leave them wondering how they can possibly go on.
But tonight, they are just my babies. I told Amelia just one more story at least five times. I nursed Lily into a peaceful slumber while she stroked my hair, held her for several minutes after she fell asleep and studied her eyelashes. In a few years, she will not let me hold her this way, smelling her hair and pressing her cheekbones to my lips. In a few years, the girls will fight with me about every little thing and call me names and tell me they hate me. And that’s okay. I will honor their transitions away from me (with tears, no doubt).
But tonight they are here to hold and breathe and watch.
Tonight they are mine.
Oh, let me enfold thee, my baby, tonight;
While legions are singing in joyous delight.
A new star has risen to hail thee divine,
For you are a queen…
But tonight you are mine.