When my hands were smaller, I tied a satin ribbon around the neck of my gray stained cat. There was the moment the knot was tied, when his silken coat slipped from my hands, the reach to pull him back, to loosen the tug. And his feet like whispers over cracked summer grass, his small head tilting, trying to relieve the tension from the ribbon still dangling. And the tight pull of a girl's need to love, wrapped recklessly around neck, the noose of a caretaker's will.
I watched his tail curl around the peeling bark of the river birch hung crooked above a spread of periwinkle and fern. And the swell of guilt and fear, the rise and run past gardens wide to release a ribbon pulled too tight.
I remember the way the sun found me between the trees, cheeks wet with worry. The shadow of a cat, tail still twirling, winding between path and thorn. And a girl left holding her heart, the deep knee bend on soft autumn leaves and the waking cry of one small cat calling for home.
There was a circle of gray fur, small dots of black paw piled over ear and the gentle cut of a scissor's blade. And one satin ribbon coiled on sand, the electric twirl of relief around a small girl's calf.
Home. You're home.
She met me at the creek just as the sun became a soft shade of sherbet. His smile reaching for his ears, eyes dipped in pools of blue sky wonder.
And she whispered, "Come."
A cloud of safety met by open mouth run, boots too big stumble, sun gathered in deep neck caution and breath risen.
Hello Boy Mama. I see you.
I see you with dirt under nail, knees pressed deep into the sponge of an afternoon rain soaked ground, the smudge of earth and sand painted just below one eye.
The hours with foot pressed on hardwood floor, the gentle tilt of rocking chair, his eyes open, tracing each curve of your face, staring into the eyes of girl turned woman turned mama. And the hold just before the sun softens the shade, just before the light clears your memory of sleep.
So you hold his hand softly, letting his heart wander between leaps and misstepped splash, over ledge and deep hole curiosities.
Your first boy entry into motherhood, this whistle back home from front porch wanderings, motherhood.
And to be a boy mama, a mama with hands that reach past rock and vine, hands that dig for buried treasure assurances, a hand, still holding satin ribbons tied too tightly.
Sometimes I follow them into the woods, these boys made of fur and sand and dust and skin. Sometimes I follow them into the woods and wish for the ribbons to be cut, for the moments when my need to make them my own went wrong, when my hands felt too tight around the boys they will be.
Because I will never know what the world looks like from behind the brown iris of boyhood, a breath shaped by the winds of a man.
You are a heart caught in the vine of enrapture.
And his eyes, the only place to hold on.
Don't cry, Boy Mama.
You are beauty. An anchor held tight by knuckles and mud, crocodile tears and silent mouth screams.
You are love.
Made whole by scuffed knees bleeding and rubbed band-aid laid scars. The blood stains through denim, the ointment, vomit and stretch, the burn and the coil, the filament sheet of fear. Hold on.
And the call down dark hallways, the lego foot crawl, and the wakes of eruptions, mountain size despair. This mother alone waking to arms nestled in chin and chest and eye. Hush now worry. Settle down there fatigue.
Boy Mama. Girl. Mother.
You are boy mama waking in nests newly shaped. These wings will carry you both, feathers piled high under heavy arms, your love made light by his soft whisper secrets.
And there are no mistakes, Boy Mama, just the birth of eyes open wide, the crescent of light between iris and lash, the death of fear, ceremonious burials of growth, each pattern of hold decomposing between blade of grass and ball of seed blown.
And she moves, this sweet mamahood, towards open creek laughter, to dark cloud reach, each wave of worry a soft kiss on sand, each mouth wrapped around the "i's" and "love's" and "you's."
And she does what she knows, sliding finger over raised voice, silencing years of soft hushes. The speed up, slow down race of toddlerhood pressed gently against her chest. To run and let go. To slow and hold tight, hair between fingers, twirl and fall. Hum.
Sometimes this mamahood feels like a chase, watching the back of his head run fast into the woods of adolescence, every once in while, turning back long enough to see the deep woods inside his eyes, the ribbon pulled too tight again.
And the hand that opens, letting ribbons fall to a ground already stepped. The wrecked heart turn of the corner. And him, somewhere out there, lost between branch, the forest smiling, each titled leaf waving back their sing song assurances. I have him. He's safe.
Let the swing find the sky. Sit close. Let your eyes smile wide. Find the banks of your river, this sailboat held close and let the cool water carry you downstream.
Past the shoelace tied hold, to islands where your kisses are the leaves of a forest once dark, and this,
The stumbled feather walk of a Boy Mama.