I am not a mother.
Never have been. Never will be. Besides, I'm 56 years old.
I knew at age 4 that children were not going to be extracted from my body. Fortunately, my husband knew that at about the same time in his own life.
Motherhood, however, is fascinating. Most people I know or have known over the years went this route. The sheer overwhelming absorption within this seemingly divine activity of even looking at, or holding and caring for, a baby, a young child, and on and on -- I've heard it never really ends -- amounts to the raison d'etre of these people's lives.
I never really appreciated that, and the sound of a baby's scream can still knock me insane. I guess it reminds me of something.
With age, with some new sense of compassion for humanity, indeed all life forms, something has slightly changed:
This morning, I entered a busy coffee house and stood in line. In front of me, a man held a baby, I don't know, 8 months old max? Normally, I would merely appreciate the fact that a young man was caring for his own beloved child, which was and always is gratifying. The baby I would purposefully ignore.
This day, I watched the child's face. "It" smiled, toothless, at me, right in the eye. I wondered, "Why is this baby smiling at this perfectly dangerous stranger??" This was a serious question for me. I kept watching, fascinated. The baby's teeny little clinched fingers, ones I've seen mindlessly for a lifetime, looked...cute. I took hold of the hand and shook it a bit, just to watch the smile return, risking a "get away from me, who the hell are you" look and possibly tears.
It was definitely a risk--in its father's clutches? The baby burst out laughing and stared hard at me. The mysterious father figure turned around and looked at me, smiling himself. He was very sweet and happy appearing. I said to him, "Girl? or..." He answered, "Yes, it's a little girl," bouncing her up and down in his arms. I noticed right away, and remarked, "Oh my golly, she looks just like you already!" He laughed, bouncing her again.
She went on to smiling at something else.
I thought to myself, What is this little being here? She seems to just exist and be happy. No one in life is like this!
It appears, simply, that they are the essence of life, just the essence right now. Society and its cultured belief systems, its prejudices, its divisions, its sense of You vs. Me, is not formatted yet. But it will be. Kittens, puppies, cute little baby things of all species, sure, they're all precious and everyone loves them -- until the little pit bull puppy gets sold to a tattooed truck driver to protect his property; or the just-fledged parrot gets a black bag stuck over its head and is smuggled to another continent to be sold into slavery as a breeder and ends up wild, mean, and picking its feathers for the rest of its life.
And humans? Somehow, without knowing anything about it, I feel there's a big, looming alteration that takes place and the singular essence splits, like the zygote did long ago, and the long split that began with an innocent gender difference grows wider and wider. Finally, the essence is masked, as though gone.
I knew this when I was about 4 and didn't want to watch my own child go through what I was already aware that I would have to. This is why I'm beginning to appreciate mothers and motherhood--
What guts they have.