Moms are carriers. Plain and simple. I suppose it was my restricted carrying the past month due to a shoulder injury that has me thinking along these lines. For nine months, we carry in our expanding belly an expectation of something we can’t possible begin to understand until we’re able to hold it in our arms for the first time and then we don’t want to let go. We carry babies until they’re toddlers and when they discover their independence and no longer want to be carried, we carry their things. We carry toys that should have been left at home in the first place and mutter “I told you sos” under our breath, while more unwanted “had to bring it” things are piled onto our already full arms. When my middle child, Grant, was born, he spent the first 4 months of his life unhappy unless he was being carried. The words, “Can you carry Grant?” were heard so often during those first 4 months that Grant’s other name became “Cary” Grant, quite by default. Anyone slightly younger than me had no idea why we found his name to be so clever. And carry him, I/we did…. in a front pack, on a hip, over a shoulder or in the crook of an arm. That same baby, many years later, while playing competitive baseball in middle school, had a coach who would tell the team as they were gathering up the equipment post game,
“Catchers don’t carry.”
I loved that sliver of recognition that the catcher would get for having spent the past few hours in a squatted position looking through a hot mask. He should get a pass. In fact, more than once I felt like the team should not only carry the equipment, but the catcher as well. A few times, when I’ve been in a situation with Grant when I didn’t feel like I should have to carry something, we’ve locked glances and he’ll take the words right out of my mouth before I even have a chance to utter them.
“Catchers don’t carry.”
He gets it. My child who wanted to be carried for a solid 4 months can appreciate that sometimes the person who’s expected to shoulder the heavy load, simply needs a break.
I’ve often wondered what would happen if just once a rule of “Moms don’t carry” would be thrown out there? (and not just on Mother’s Day…) Would there be piles of half eaten bags of popcorn, still sealed water bottles, souvenir caps and worthless trinkets piled up at the exit of every amusement park because there wouldn’t be a mom to schlep them to the car? Would stuffed animals, shoes that fell off of tiny feet and were easier to carry rather than put back on again, and the stray jacket be left behind on empty chairs in restaurants? Or more likely, would the moms swoop in in exasperation and like any good pack animal, load up the gear with a sigh and a “never mind” and continue on? Maybe we do it because it’s important to us. Maybe we know that a handful of stale popcorn will save the day 20 minutes into a ride home with grumpy and tired kids. Maybe we know that we’ll be the ones that will suffer the consequences if all of our options are left behind in piles when exiting.
When my 3rd child, Emery, was born, the kids outnumbered the arms, which I hadn’t really considered until my maiden voyage outside of the house with all three in tow. My sister, Robin, said it reminded her of the guy that was on the Ed Sullivan show who would balance 3 plates in the air with two long sticks. With the plates outnumbering the sticks holding them up, there was always a vulnerable one that had you holding your breath. I think that same guy showed up every week on the show, and still, we watched with bated breath (entertainment was simple, times were different…). I would think about that man on the Ed Sullivan stage a lot while I juggled 3 kids and their stuff – maintaining the balance of keeping all 3 “plates” in the air at once, always with an eye out for the vulnerable one. I know I speak for other moms when I say that there was a little bit of “bring it on… I’ve got this” going on, maybe because there was an odd desire to see how much I actually could do or carry or manage before the delicately stacked tower would tumble. It was always far more than I had predicted, by the way…
When kids had big enough arms to hold their own stuff, the rule was always “If you want to bring it, you carry it.” The unwritten rule that seemed to go along with that, or at least as far as the kids were concerned, was, “Bring it. Mom will end up carrying it.” And sadly, she did. Rules regarding carrying seemed to be regarded as mere suggestions, and I take total blame for that one.
All of the carrying becomes normal and any mother of young children will tell you that when their arms aren’t overflowing with babies, car seats, strollers or stuffed lovies, something feels wrong… almost like you have forgotten to put your second shoe on. I marvel now at the strength and balance I had when I was able to remove and open a heavy double stroller from the back of the car with one hand, while holding a crying baby and trying to keep a physical touch on his rambunctious older brother with any part of my body that was available. Never again will I have the strong, chiseled arms I had then that sadly went unnoticed, simply because they were a side effect, not a goal, and something that I had no time to give importance to. Even lifting weights 3 times a week with a personal trainer not that long ago couldn’t bring them back to their glory days. Funny how things work.
As much as I juggled, schlepped and complained, the day came when I realized that my arms were swinging back and forth as I walked…back and forth and strangely empty. It felt surprisingly freeing, yet not quite normal and with that lingering sense of having forgotten something. Holding my kids and their belongings gave me a sense of control and security and comfort as all I had to do was look down and it would all be right there – right there in my tired, but contently filled arms. When the babies, the toddlers, the crying children and the armloads of stuff no longer needed to be carried was when the real heavy lifting began. This was the part that no one told me about. This was the part that even the well-toned and strong arms wouldn’t be able to help me with. This was the part when my arms set down the physical loads and my heart stepped in to carry the load.
In our ever-expanding hearts, we hold the hopes, the tears, the joys, the fears, the desires and every memory, both the good ones and the not so good ones. Unlike our limited arms, our hearts are limitless and seem to expand with ease in order to make room for more memories, more touching moments, more feelings that you want to hold close. I’ve come to realize, after so many times of saying goodbye to my children, to honor, respect and hold tight to what I no longer can carry in my arms, but now hold in my heart and although it’s not a load that can be felt physically, its presence is as present as my breath, my pulse, my being.
I’ve been reminded twice in the past month, while carrying the boxed belongings of 2 of my kids and their spouses, that the carrying doesn’t ever truly end, it just changes. Although most of the load carried since my children reached adulthood, has not been carried in cardboard boxes, but rather, in my heart, there are still times that I get to re-flex my carrying muscles and honestly, it feels nostalgically wonderful. But kids, 6 times in 3 years is enough! Any more than that, and I’ll have to enforce my “catchers don’t carry” rule (which you’ll wisely read as “don’t worry, she’ll still help us move our stuff”…). You know me well. Of course I will.
|Carrying all of them… in my heart…|