Labor Day 2007. Big Brother was born. As was my identity as a mother.
High school. College. A president’s term.
I was never supposed to go into labor.
I have a uterine anomaly that was identified early in my first pregnancy that meant that I would have to deliver by c-section. Going into labor could be dangerous for me and for my baby, my doctor said. So Big Brother was scheduled to arrive by c-section on September 7, 2007.
But, like his little sister after him, he had other plans. Maybe somewhere in his tiny brain inside his tiny body inside his increasingly tiny home, he knew that Labor Day would be an auspicious day to make his arrival.
And arrive he did, six pounds, fifteen ounces of wrinkly pink wonder. A baby who became a boy who loves books and Legos and dinosaurs and knights. Who was a brother twice by age four. Who is happy eating peanut butter and jelly and popsicles. Every single day. Who thrives on routine and struggles with change. Whose favorite color is orange. Whose curls were cut into his first big boy haircut last week. Who routinely stumps me with questions about death and souls and the stars.
This Labor Day he asked me: “Mommy, do you know anything about history?”
An innocent question, in every sense. He is an innocent. He knows countless facts about history, but is missing the conjunctions and the filler that give it its weight and its horror. And he doesn’t intend the question with the heaviness with which it hits me, right in the sweet spot where the gulf between who I was and who I am seems bigger every year.
He doesn’t know the me I was before there was a he. He doesn’t know that I was a student of history for years and a teacher of it for longer. That I spent years writing a master’s thesis on it. That I could tell him all about the French Wars of Religion or the Missouri Compromise. About Great Zimbabwe or the desegregation of the Boston city schools.
He doesn’t know what I know – or what I knew. And I wonder: do I even remember that history anymore? Do I remember the historical me?
I’m not sure, but I give him an answer anyway:
“Yes, baby. Yes, I do.”
Happy birthday, Big Brother. Happy, happy day to the boy who taught me how to be a mother. Through several hours of labor and four years of a labor of love.