The Inner Crab


It was soft, like the purring of a kitten, and I wasn't sure at first I was really feeling anything, but when the motion increased beneath my hand, I smiled. "That was a kick, wasn't it?" I asked. She held my hand in place for a moment longer, until I felt a sharper movement. "That was a kick," she said. "I usually don't get those until about three in the morning. She's a night owl already."

I removed my hand from her swollen belly, and marveled at the fabric of her skin stretched taut over the life she was nurturing inside. My own mother was about this age when I was born...barely starting a life of her own, and already beknighted by the bittersweet calling of motherhood. It's always difficult to imagine a parent as having a life outside of their role as mentor, guardian and warden, but her passing late last fall of cancer somehow made it easier to imagine her in her earlier years, full of life like she appeared in the portraits my father had taken of her when they were still together...quite beautiful, really, and with a freshness I had never seen in her eyes before. It was an unfathomably long road from that young woman's life to the life she had left behind so recently...and it was a road I had travelled along with her, for the past twenty-four years.

As I watched my friend the mother-to-be, I wondered what she would be like in a quarter of a century...and what her daughter would be like at my age. Single motherhood once seemed a less common thing, but in the past few years I've met and dated and befriended dozens of them. Perhaps I identify with them. Perhaps I just want to make things okay for them, because I couldn't when my own mother was alone. Whatever the attraction, it's made me think about my possible role in the life of a mother, dancing in the duet of creation. Mothers and fathers shape their children in ways they can't even imagine--I remember bits and pieces, words and events and images that neither my mother nor my father can recall, but they were like silt to the delta, carried by the river of life and building me slowly, only acknowledgeable after the fact. Even the absent parent shapes his children, by making a hole in their lives that they are forced to fill for themselves. I learned many things from my father-figures--mainly what not to do, but that is valuable knowledge indeed. Despite the images to the contrary--or perhaps because of them...I may never know for sure--I look on fatherhood as the only truly worthy challenge the world has to offer. Careers wax and wane, money comes and goes, but genesis is felt forever.

Site Contents © 2004 Robert M. Rowan