It wasn’t easy, the way you came into the world. I started labor on a Saturday afternoon. You were born at 8:03pm that Monday. Your dark, straight black hair covered your entire head and even came over your ears a little. They put you on my chest and I wept. The truth is, I didn’t really believe in you, that my pregnancy would end in me holding a living, breathing, human child on my chest until that very moment.
I think there might just be a handful of events that mark such a profound change in direction of our lives that we forever think of ourselves as two distinct people: the one that is before the event and the one that is after. In this case, the change you brought about feels so all-encompassing that the after seems to blur and distort the before. Pre-you is like remembering an old movie– one I know well but not because I lived its events.
You asked me once why I became an artist, and I told you it was because of you, to which you said, “you’re welcome.” On the edge of so many uncertain paths, your little face made me want to try, even if it meant failing miserably. Never particularly brave or prone to take risks, I decided to attempt to design a life I could love; for you, yes, but looking back now I think it was mostly for me. I needed to navigate the world not just as a victim of circumstance but as a force who not only responds to but creates the world in which she lives. I needed to show you how to care for yourself, how to fail again and again and still believe in your worth instead of never risking anything except your own sense of self.
In the beginning most of my art taught me how imperfect I was– as a painter and as a mother. Most of my early blog posts are about how hard it was, how much you cried, how deeply I loved you. But my worst days always ended, gave way to new chances to begin, to right my wrongs, and if not that, then at least work towards something new.
An entire decade of knowing you, and I’m still learning so much about how to care for you, how to be your mother and still an entirely separate person from you. My first impulse is to make every sandwich, fold every shirt, correct every misstep even though I know you are strong, capable, resilient, and whole.
You’ve taught me that control is an illusion. That love is deeper than I ever could have imagined. The difference between a white and speckled trout. That hugs cover a multitude of sins. That ice cream is very often a good idea. You’ve taught me that being a mom isn’t marveling at a mini-me but learning who someone else really is and loving them without a single condition.
Ten years ago I was so scared. Today I’m grateful that I get to do life with you, learning from you, rooting for you, making art you inspire, and, if I’m really lucky, holding your hand when no one else is looking.
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Written by Denise Hopkins
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