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Shot Of The Day

Promise you won't pet the lions -- Part 1

I love being the daughter of Sally Alderman. Having a mom that still cares whether I’m warm when I leave the house or whether I’ve reached my final destination in my car or whether I’m sleeping enough [she already knows I’m eating enough — :/] or whether I’ve gotten my flu shot this year or whether I will finally learn to say NO to too many things — her latest protective covering of love over my 50-year-old life. When I got pregnant with my son, Aunt Jeannie, the matriarch of the Silverglate family, became mom for a precious moment. She patted my not-yet-protruding belly and gave me a soulful look and said — ‘from birth to the grave, my dear. You will carry that child from birth to the grave.’ It sounded so… I don’t know — daunting? Like music should play in the background – da da da. And I guess it should have, because, I’ve learned over almost 20 years now, it’s so damn true.

Yes, we empty our nests and we let our children go, but we never stop carrying them emotionally, spiritually, and some other way I can’t explain with enough texture to do it justice… It is like there is this pilot light in your heart that always stays on. It could ignite at any time. You see something or hear something or smell something that sends a spark to that little flame and woosh, the fire starts and there you are carrying them again. Praying for the little flicker. Picking up the phone. Or just lifting up a little praise to the Creator for picking unqualified you out of all the mommy’s in the world for this little creature. As long as God blesses us with the breath of life, we carry our children forever in our hearts. We love to hear them talk. Hate to see them suffer. Cry when they cry. Laugh when they laugh. We worry about them. The pilot light is always on.

A month or so ago with a group of moms who still meet monthly to celebrate the fact that our kids brought us together through school [and we survived], we had one of our tender moments where we all share what’s going on with our cubs. One after the other, the Lionesses recounted little vignettes about their prides. Some were funny, some were sobering, some were sweet, but this one really got me. It was from an awesome crazy woman who is fabulously animated and fun. She was imitating herself listening to her son on the phone and she was saying “uh hugh, uh hugh, uh hugh” and then, quite dramatically, she pretended to cover the imaginary phone so he couldn’t hear her comment to us in the studio audience, “he could be talking about dirty laundry and I’d be thinking in my heart — just keep talking kid. I love it when you talk.” We all got mushy. Wet eyed. Nodded. Yep! Birth to the grave Aunt Jeannie. Birth to the grave.

In the days and weeks leading up to my Africa trip, I could tell my mom wanted to explode with the desire to protect me — her half-century-old-cub. She was the Lioness sensing all the danger and pacing around the pride. I could also tell that she was depositing all this mother-protective-surge-o-love onto my sisters because she was really really quiet about any sense of fear or worry she might be feeling over the great African adventure. She just kept telling me how excited she was.

Finally, the day before I left, sitting on her living room floor — the one where my son crawled when he was 2 and my dog slept every Christmas from the year he was born till the year he died and where she paced waiting for me to come home at all hours of the night — she she gave me advice on what to bring and what to leave behind while I dumped and reloaded my suitcase umpteen times. In a quiet moment while I was in my head debating whether to shed the extra shoes that matched and looked cute but were really just extra weight, she whispered — “Hey Kath…” She’s the only one who calls me that on a regular basis so it wakes up mother love inside me. I could tell by her tone that she didn’t want me to give her my ears but also my heart. I looked at her sitting on the tiny yellow plastic Big Bird chair half in the house and half out on the porch where she has watched life go by every afternoon since 1974 saying hi to every animal that passes — by name… “Kath… promise me you won’t pet the lions.” Before you dismiss that as a joke, you need to know something about my mom — she was serious. Dead serious. And not because she’s crazy either. But because nobody knows you better than your mama! She knows that my love of animals has led me into some rather unfortunate circumstances — including one as a child with a lion named Poo.

The moment had depth plumbed by the knowledge of how much she had restrained herself from sharing her worry with me. I knew how hard it was going to be for her not to worry in the middle of Ebola and places unreachable by reasonable means. And, more than any of it, I knew I’d feel exactly the same way about my cub. So, I got wet eyed. Nodded. And vowed: “I won’t mommy. I promise. I won’t.” And I meant it when I said it! Really I did. So please note that the picture above does not involve any form of hand to hand contact. It was purely a friendly game of tug of war at a lion cub rescue in Johannesburg. And I take the 5th on the rest of the pics in that series, except to say, it didn’t include this guy below.

continued in Part II…

Posted: 7 November 2014

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