This morning Greg let me sleep in a bit while he got up with the baby. Then around 7:30 Vera woke up and crawled in bed with me. It’s so rare that the baby isn’t with me that we had a few moments of special time together. She was cold from having kicked off her covers in the night and she snuggled into me. “Make me warm, mama,” she said, and I squeezed her close, still half awake.
I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again. I never anticipated the physical closeness that would come with having a child. Sometimes, at the end of a long day, I find it cloying, but most of the time it’s something that I cherish, all too aware of how brief this part of our lives together will be. “Promise me we’ll always snuggle?” I asked Vera, knowing that it was a promise she could never keep, already imagining her in ten years resisting my hugs, just as I did with my own mother. “I promise,” she said, nuzzling closer.
“I miss my mom,” I said then, not knowing if I meant to say it out loud or not.
“It’s okay, mom,” Vera said. “You’ve got me.”
And she was right.
The few times I voiced missing my mother to Veronica, this has always been her response. I wonder how she knows. I wonder how this little girl of three years old knows that indeed she has made my mother’s death okay in a thousand ways. Whatever gaping, gasping hole my mother’s death left in my heart, Veronica has filled and overfilled and stretched to fill some more. The hole is still there yes, but it’s so full of love and life and realness that you’d almost never be able to tell that it was a hole in the first place.
And in becoming a mother I’ve seemingly resurrected my own mother. I hear her every day in my own voice, and I don’t just mean that I sound like her. I mean that I startle myself, that I sometimes wonder if it isn’t her speaking right through me. That the very essence of my mother, and probably of her mother and her mother’s mother, reach right up through my bones, flood through my blood and skin until they become light and air and sound; my mother’s voice hanging in the air of my living room on a sunny September afternoon in Santa Monica.
And so when I say I miss her, and when my daughter responds that it’s okay, for the first time in fifteen years, it really is.