At 20 weeks pregnant, I asked my doctor if it was safe to go to Vegas.
"It's not what you think. I'm going with my mom."
Which made it sound even more bizarre than it actually was.
We were going to Las Vegas to see Tim McGraw and Faith Hill in concert. Two separate flights, one from the south and one from the north. Forty-eight hours together at a nice hotel. Just the two of us, our favorite country music singers, a room service dinner, and all the time in the world to talk. It was a celebration of motherhood. A tiny slice of freedom from our larger responsibilities. A moment to watch our lives intersecting in parallel reflections in the hotel room mirror as we dressed in something fancy and walked out the door. We held hands at the concert that night, my Momma and I.
We share the same hands. Long, thin fingers that we use to put pen to paper in the journals that we keep. Soft, open palms that pat my baby's back or ruffle the thick locks on my 4-year-old's head. If I need to know the business of mothering, I need only to look at her hands.
Our fingers intertwined, my voice sang the familiar lyrics to her that night as the stage lit up before us.
"Someday you'll be looking back on your life
at the memories...
This is gonna be one of those nights..."
One of those nights. I turn to look at her beautiful face, bathed in the soft glow cast from a theater spotlight. She turns to smile at me, and my eyes fill with tears. We have earned this time together. I am whole when her hand is in mine. I am strong when she is beside me. As the words of the chorus wash over us, she gives my hand a staccato squeeze in the familiar language that we share.
One of those nights. She is sandwiched between my little brother and me on the worn couch. We are crying together as she explains why they are getting a divorce. We weave ourselves around her body as her hands reach out to cover us.
One of those nights. My mom and I, sitting cross-legged on my twin bed. Tears running like rivers down my cheeks as I sob about my high school boyfriend going away to college. My mom's hands covering mine, her smile reminding me that there is a big, amazing life out there, waiting for me to discover it.
One of those nights. My fingers clutching the telephone as I tell her about the clients in my new job, getting teary-eyed as I ask career advice from the most compassionate therapist I have ever known. What do I tell my clients? How can I help them? How can I be like you? Listening to her strong voice as she teaches me how to pay attention, how to engage, how to heal.
One of those nights. Tears of joy as we hold hands on the hotel porch at dusk, the night before my wedding. Conversations about the dreams that we follow and the promises that we make. Her arm linked in mine as we practice walking down the aisle together. My mother's fingers running gently over the fabric of my wedding dress. She is pulling me closer and still nudging me forward, as I edge toward beginning a new life.
One of those nights. Breathing a sigh of relief that she was there with me when my water broke. Tears of excitement and fear, mixing with laughter at what a mess it all was. My mom's finger on the second hand of her watch, calling out times as each wave of contractions hit. The quickness in her step as she helped Sean and me pile into the car. Her tight grasp around my fingers as the doctor took me into the operating room to deliver my tiny Max.
One of those nights. Sitting together in my new house, tears of frustration pooling in my eyes as I explained how hopeless I felt trying to heal my son. Her confident fingers reaching into her purse and pulling out a notebook, writing down questions that we should ask the doctor.
One of those nights. Watching the numbers on her heart monitor fall, as I count every breath. Lacing my fingers through hers and willing her heart to grow stronger. Pressing my fingers on the call button, my own heart racing as a nurse breaks the silence of my prayer. Not daring to sleep, because I need to be sure that she will wake up. Silent tears at 3 a.m., as we share the things that terrify us the most. Shaking inside as I pray with every fiber of my being for her to make it through the night. My hand covering hers as I talk to the surgeon. Hand in hand, my mom and I breathe together. Hand in hand, night becomes morning, until she is bathed in the hope that daylight brings.
One of those nights. My mom, sleeping on a crappy pull-out hospital bed as I recover from my second C-section. Her soft hands brushing my hair back as I learn to nurse my son. Putting a straw to my mouth and reminding me to drink. Steadying me as I rise on wobbly legs to walk to the bathroom. Laughing so hard we cry when baby Ben poops everywhere and there is no nurse around to help us in the middle of the night. Hand in hand, she gets me through 'til morning, breathing courage and strength back into my tired body.
One of those nights. She is sitting on the floor with my boys, her graceful fingers wrapped around Lego blocks and colored pencils. She pulls Max in to her lap, and tickles him until he laughs the belly laugh that only a Bubee can bring. Her confident hands scoop baby Ben up from his blanket, and she cradles him against her face. Her hands, the ones that look like mine, soothe my babies just as they have soothed me.
My thin fingers reach up to brush the tears from my cheeks before anyone can see. I am her, and she is me. She walks beside me, and yet I can clearly see her footprints as they etch the steps that lay before me. The path that I have to follow is lined with the rugged lessons of time. The beautiful mirrored conversations. Tears of laughter, and tears of hope. The language of her mothering is translated through her hands. The hands that gently move me forward, waving to me with a confident grace every time I look back. The blessing of our shared motherhood is defined in moments... in every one of those nights.