Mothers, like elephants, remember.
We remember the day we found out you were coming, the day we found out we were indeed growing a whole human being inside.
We made you from scratch; you came from a speck.
Some of us were scared. Some of us were surprised—not ready. Some of us were overjoyed—grateful. And yes, some of us were annoyed—even a bit upset. But no matter how we felt about the changes deep down inside, you are here now because we adjusted our lives to fit yours. Sacrifice is just one of the ways we loved you in the beginning, before we ever met you, before all our other loving ways came shining through.
When you were on your way, we made room. We made a room inside our womb, room inside our hearts and our heads. We processed a new reality, a reality that required selflessness. We embraced the thought of you, and we became excited, intoxicated by potential and hope. But we would be lying if we said we forgot about some of our anxiousness, some of our more selfish thoughts—even if we can brush them off now.
Mothers, like elephants, do not forget.
We remember the first time we held you. Your very first cry. And yes, it felt like we carried you for two whole years by the time you were born. We remember how you smelled—like pancakes and innocence. We remember your round head, and your big, little eyeballs darting around, checking out the world. We remember your tiny bottom, your dimples, and your micro fingernails. All of it—we remember all of it. Your perfect baby-ness, your squealing, mewling, flailing-fist helplessness. We remember your wiggling need.
Mostly, though, we remember being relieved.
And we remember the first time we had to protect you. It was a physical thing. We took our eyes off you for five seconds and suddenly you were on the floor. Or you were standing too close to the road. Or you were climbing way too high. We remember the adrenaline, the rush, the fear. We remember throwing up our hearts.
We remember, too, the way we protected your feelings sometimes. And how we sometimes had to make you face them. We remember how difficult it often was to teach you to do the right thing instead of the easy thing. It was stressful. It made us uncomfortable, but we did it anyway.
And we cannot forget how you climbed all over us, all of you, like a herd of baby elephants, how you needed our laps and our shoulders and our hands and our hurt-healing lips. How you needed our arms to envelop you; the very trunks of our bodies, the perfect place for you to sink right into. We remember the snuggles, and the closeness, and the playing on the floor. The noises and the giggles, and how you always wanted more. We remember the time you stepped on our face and pinched our toes.
We can still feel the pleasure and the pain of both.
Because mothers, like elephants, do not forget.
Of course we remember the worry. Who can forget that? The pacing, the hand wringing. And, dammit, you are old and grown and living on your own now, but that doesn’t stop us from worrying, from conjuring dangerous scenarios in our heads, all the ways you might meet your demise, all the ways your life makes our weary eyes go big, all the ways you make us shake our heads and sigh, but can’t voice it because…you are old and grown and on your own. Oh, the worry never ends.
Do elephant mothers worry too? I think they do.
But, there are some times we must say what we feel—without hesitation. Sometimes, we just tell it to you straight—what you need to hear, instead of placation. “Don’t be foolish, you are not a fool!” we might say, and boy do we mean it. If mothers didn’t speak up once in a while, the world would be far more frightening, believe it.
We remember your sadness, your growing pains. We remember your triumphs and all your personal gains. They are snapshots in our head that do not need to be unearthed because they are sitting right there on the surface of our very being, everywhere we go. We remember, because we felt your feelings right along with you. Your success was our joy. Your sorrow was our melancholy too.
We remember everything. Stories in a jar, we are. When you take us down off the shelf, when you dust us off and really look inside, you will surely see—mothers are indeed the vigilant keepers of infinite human history.
You’re the reason we changed for the better, my dears. This is no small thing.
The jar is heavy, but we carry it yet.
Mothers, like elephants, do not forget.