I sat next to her on a bench in Millennium Park. It was a hot Chicago day, she was covered from head to toe, I, ready to undress. The older boys did just that. Down to their undies, they ran and splashed, gathering smiles as they played, waiting for the gigantic face to squirt water at them.
There was a young man sitting next to her. I assumed him to be her son, correctly. She and I exchanged smiles, playing with the baby, laughing, cooing, admiring. Her son and I got to talking, seemed like a really nice guy. She was visiting from Jerusalem, a Palestinian, far from home. She dared to take off her shoes, exposing stocking covered toes, relieved, I'm sure, to be momentarily set free. Her face was one of kindness, gentleness, experience way more than her fair share. Information was shared in bits, perhaps with a splash of feeling out to be sure that I was not looking to, um, judge. After what seemed like a very long while she finally spoke to me, looking me in the eye. "Five years. Five years." I don't know if she had tears, but think I did. I looked to her son, he elaborated. "It's been 5 years since she's seen me. She's telling you it's been 5 years since she's seen me." I pause. Attempt to make a joke, as if I cannot presume to understand why, as if I shouldn't let it cloud my mind that I am born of immeasurable good fortune. As if I've never seen the news. But we both know. We both understand.
The secret and constant gratitude of Mother. To know what it means to love someone more than yourself. A love so powerful that you would release the thing that is The Most to a far away promise. And not know if or when you might see them again.
I was left to hope that she saw in me my lack of judgment. My hope that, no matter what the circumstance, my home would treat him well. Keep him safe. Be at its best. Embrace as it has done for so many before. And in honor of her, and mothers all over the world, I hoped I would remember more to treat my life with the gratitude it deserves. Understand that I am no better, no more worthy, no more loved by God. Than anyone. Just so. very. lucky. And maybe I'll get up off my ass more often and act like it, and pay it forward.
Traveling is a wonderful thing.