Dear Mrs. Gordon,
Hi. My name is Jai … and I’m pretty sure that doesn’t mean much to you.
And really, it shouldn’t.
I am just a woman — among many women — living in a brown house — among many brown houses — nestled on a little street — among many just like it — in the middle of suburban America. I am really very everyday. I have a garden, a couple of dogs and a minivan. I try to eat the food I should, smile more than I frown and keep my toenails painted at least in the summer.
Maybe you do these things, too? Honestly, I’m not sure. I don’t know much about you except the bits and pieces a quick Internet search feeds me. But, of course, we both know Google can only sometimes tell you who a person really is. It’s entirely possible that you and I have very dissimilar lives. If we were to sit down and compare notes, maybe the “different” column would be ridiculously longer than the one labeled “same.” Or maybe not. Again, I’m not quite sure. But either way, Mrs. Gordon, whether we’ve ever read the same book or cooked the same meal or carried the same purse, there is one place I know our lives and hearts meet:
We are are both moms.
Boy moms, specifically. Me to my two, and you to your four. Our sons stand on opposite ends of decades. Mine are 6 and 8. Yours are the kind who have grown taller than you and live life outside your four walls. Still, they are our boys, and we are their moms. And I am gutsy enough to believe that this little fact unites us in profound ways. Yes, I’m pretty sure you get the endless wrestling matches, the relentless cries of “Mom, I’m starving!,” the constant trail of hats and cleats and gloves. But that list, Mrs. Gordon, is not what I’m grappling with right now.
Right now it’s more about my heart. My heart … and baseball.
You see, the other day my 8-year-old stepped into the batter’s box. Kind of like he’s been doing since he was 3.
He brought his favorite blue bat to his shoulder. Kind of like he has a million other times.
He readied himself with a practiced stance, a slight sway and the look. (You know the look.)
And then he waited for the ball.
That wait, Mrs. Gordon, is why I’m writing you.
The moment before the ball comes spans about three seconds. One Mississippi. Two Mississippi. Three Mississippi. In three seconds, I can start my car, read one-point-five Facebook status updates, tie my 6-year-old’s shoe. I can start a load of laundry, pump a couple of gallons of gas, wonder what I’m making for dinner.
Or I can press pause on the entire world, feel my heart drop to my stomach and wait for my son to hit a baseball.
I am still not sure how a moment so brief can be so equally tangible. Those three seconds? It’s almost as if I can hold them, Mrs. Gordon. My hopes for my son. My fears for his disappointments. My joy over his victories — all held in too-shaky, way-too-tender mom-hands.
The ball comes. It’s a hit. (Usually.) He makes it to first or second. Or maybe it’s a triple! He even has couple of homers he holds close to his heart. Wherever the ball goes, or doesn’t go, I cheer. Like it’s your Alex hitting a home run in the World Series, I cheer. Partly because I’ve finally found my breath again, but mostly because, omigosh, I love him. My 8-year-old, my 6-year-old, I love them.
So, Mrs. Gordon. Mom to mom, I have to know. Does the three-second feeling ever go away?
Does it even soften just a bit? When Alex steps up to bat, do you hold your breath? Does your heart swell for your big kid the way mine does for my littles? Do your mom-hands shake just enough for only you to notice? And when Alex struggles, does it sting? And if so, do you ever just look away? I’ve done that, Mrs. Gordon. Just between you and me. I’ve walked away from a strikeout. From too many missed balls. I’ve elevated my pain above my sons’ and invented a reason to visit the concession stand. Have you ever done that? And do you ever still? Do you sometimes just turn off the television? And when people talk about your Alex like he’s something to be talked about, do you want to go all mama bear on them? When any of your boys reach for what they love, do you press pause on the world and breathe little mom-prayers until they grab it?
Or until they miss?
I’m only eight years in, Mrs. Gordon, but I’m learning that motherhood is a perpetual heart journey. It’s like agreeing to hold hands with deep joy and deep vulnerability all at the same time. And it spreads to baseball and basketball, skinned knees and broken hearts, first loves and first jobs, and from what I can tell, it just keeps going.
Am I getting it right?
You know, sometimes I look at my sons and get a glimpse of the 30something-year-old men they will one day become. Do you ever look at yours and remember them as 8-year-old boys? I wonder if, in those moments, we are both left with a sense of awe of what is to come and what has been? And do we both silently agree to taste deeply of these days, knowing they will soon fade.
Even if the three-second feeling never does …
So, maybe I knew the answer all along. And maybe our lives, though so obviously different, are distinctly the same. And could it be we don’t have to ever meet to understand each other’s hearts? At least a little. After all, Mrs. Gordon, we are moms.
And that says quite enough.
Very sincerely yours,