Stretch Marks

BY PEGGY TIDWELL

   We listened. Memorizing every pristine second. A quick smack of trained hand against fresh, tender flesh. The ragged gasp to draw the first breath of air. A high pitched wail demanding to be heard and seen and loved forever.
    We embraced. Savoring the snuggles of squirming body with tiny, wiggly arms and legs. The rhythm of a new heartbeat synchronized to ours against our bosom. Their first minute of life outside the womb. Our first minute of overwhelming love and joy and gratitude.
    We prayed. How could You love me so much to gift me with being the mother of this child?

    “I hate you!” She screamed when denied a toy at the grocery store. She didn’t mean it.
    “Leave me alone.” He crossed his arms over his little chest and turned his head toward the window. He didn’t mean it.
    “I’m not going to church.” She stomped her feet dressed with patent leather Sunday shoes and stuck out her bottom lip. She didn’t mean it.
    “You’re so mean.” He threw a dump truck across the room from the time out chair in the corner. He didn’t mean it.
    “Don’t help me.” She slapped away helping hands and fumbled through a frustrating task. She didn’t mean it.
    They didn’t mean it.

    We listened. Then we laughed or scolded or redirected or reasoned or corrected the child for being petulant, stubborn, defiant, belligerent, or willful.
    We embraced. The penitent child climbed onto our lap, kissed our cheek, squeezed our neck, and told us how much they loved us. They meant it.
    We prayed. How could You love me so much to gift me with being the mother of this child?

    “I hate you.” She’s sixteen. She’s sexually active. She rolls her eyes with every lecture or denial to see the boy who loves and understands her more than anyone in the whole wide world. “I hate you.” She means it.
    “Leave me alone.” He’s seventeen. He doesn’t want to date girls. It’s his life. He will live it the way he sees fit. His new friends are his support group now. “Leave me alone.” He means it.
    “I’m not going to church.” She’s eighteen. She’s home for her first visit since moving away for college. She no longer believes in God or Jesus or organized religion. “I’m not going to church.” She means it.
    “You’re so mean.” He’s nineteen. He sits in a hard, plastic chair in the admission office. Glassy eyes and track lines on his arms reveal the secrets that tell a painful story of tragic choices. “You’re so mean.” He means it.
    “Don’t help me.” She’s twenty. She’s trapped in a chaotic storm of delusion, depression, and anxiety. She hates the medications. She doesn’t need them. She doesn’t need anyone. “Don’t help me.” She means it.
    They meant it.

    We listen. No words collect on our tongues. We are numb. We summon our minds to declare love and truth only to be rejected or mocked.
    We embrace. We remember the cooing cuddles of our babies and the voluntary hugs of our children. Our arms of unconditional love collide with cold and rigid resistance.
    We pray. How? Why? What?

    We cry.
    We rage.
    We collapse.
    We isolate.
    We quit.
    We fear.
    We seek.

    “Train up a child in the way he or she should go; even when he or she is old, he or she will not depart from it.”
    “Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”
    “My grace is sufficient.”

    We surrender.
    We hope.
    We trust.
    We speak.
    We reach.
    We rest.
    We discover.

    We see them. We hear them. We love them. Forever.

    We listen.
    We embrace.
    We pray. How could You love me so much to gift me with being the mother of this child?


 
Peggy Tidwell

Peggy Tidwell

Peggy and her husband, Rodney, raised two kind and quick-witted boys who share their love for Mexican food, Texas Rangers baseball, travel, and rescue dogs. Peggy writes novels of redemption and enjoys hosting gatherings in her home and backyard. Peggy, age 57, lives in Wimberley with her husband and a needy Australian Shepherd named Tessa.