It is the first Sunday of Advent, and I am sitting in the backseat of our truck, my 7-year-olds head on my shoulder and my husband at the wheel. We drive through the back country roads that we travel daily, but my eyes are allowed to take in more this morning, as I am not the one driving. And perhaps the pale and listless head on my shoulder is settling me further into the very patient, near frozen kind of slow that a caregiver surrenders to when a child is sick. There is a young Christmas tree farm to our left, the top half of the field that grades up the berm still covered in fog at 10:20 in the morning. The overnight rain has stopped, but the clouds won’t lift today. Gray is the pallor of Advent in the Pacific Northwest, so I don’t mind the nostalgia. I monitor the discomfort of the boy to my right, his sighing and shifting in search for some comfort. “We’ll be there soon, Bubba.”
Holy Mystery, bless the dying trees, the heavy clouds, and these long days of illness.
Last night he couldn’t stop his tears as he got ready for bed. He was sad that he felt so sick, sad that he has been coughing for over a month now, that his tummy hurt, and his head hurt. His cries turned to sobs, and the sobs awakened the cough that has been curled like a dragon in his chest all month. And then I said the thing that parents really aren’t supposed to say, “You need to try to stop crying so your cough can calm down.” He continued with the shaky gasping kind of cry that we all know doesn’t respond to our best intentions. The kind that must simply run itself out. But in between little gulps for air he was able to ask me to sing. “If you sing Baby Beluga”, he sobbed, “I might be able to calm down to sleep”. And so, with a sore throat and a diaphragm partially compressed from snuggling up next to him, I squeaked out our favorite Raffi song over and over again until he was relaxed and close to dreams. And I marveled, as I gently massaged his chest in a circular motion to bring heat into his lungs, at the way mothering makes misery more bearable. Nothing about Raffi’s lyrics and my voice have the ability to bring down a fever. My cuddles aren’t magic, though I like to think they are. But something about my hand on his chest and a little white whale on the go took my flu-ridden kiddo from inconsolable to almost peaceful.
Bless the intentions of our mothering, be us mothers or something equally beautiful. Bless our human need to be seen and held in our suffering, bless the gift of touch, and bless the wonder in a tiny song.
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