Aili Meister

I Am Their Mother

I am their mother

I put them to bed each night. I help them brush their teeth and change into their pajamas and read them a story, alright one more, just this once, then turn out the light and give one more kiss, you already had water, goodnight and I tiptoe out and I finish the kitchen and clean the lunch boxes and sign the permission slips and pick up the toys.

I am their mother

I turn the monitor on before I go to sleep. My husband asks why? They aren’t babies, they can get up on their own, and I smile and indicate it is a mother’s prerogative.

I turn on the monitor after I read a single chapter and allow my husband to make love to me (Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, every other Monday) or read two chapters and write a page in my journal (Wednesday, Friday, every other other Monday) or go over the calendars and the school schedule and the vacation schedule and my husband’s schedule and the meal plan and the grocery list and the list of whether we have enough toilet paper and if it’s my mother-in-law’s birthday and if so what I can send her besides a scarf and a card or earrings and a card (Sunday). 

I am their mother 

In the morning I will butter the toast and pack the lunches: peanut butter and jelly with the crusts cut off and cheesy fish crackers and an orange that has been peeled but not segmented or a cheese sandwich with the crusts left on and tiny rabbit-shaped crackers and circles of carrot that can be offered to the rabbit crackers before they get traded away for grapes or an orange that has been peeled and segmented.

I am their mother and I listen

I peek in to see that they are really asleep and I brush my own teeth and put on my own pajamas and get into bed and before I go to sleep I turn on the monitor so that even while I sleep I can listen.

I am their mother

During the day I go to the store, to the other store, to the pharmacy, to the dry cleaners, to the bank. I search the shelves for the right kind of yogurt, one flavor of one brand among the many, many wrong kinds. I find the Goldilocks toilet paper, not too thin, not too soft. I pick up my husband’s shirts and jackets and pants and wonder how I would be different if I lived a life where I picked up my own shirts and jackets and skirts, but only for a moment because I can’t be late to pick up and I still have to make the bank deposit and send the earrings and card to my mother-in-law.

I am their mother

At pickup I hold my breath and I hope. I hope the teachers will smile, that they will smile, that no one will be crying on the carpet, that there will be no blood, not theirs and not, please oh please whatever gods might be listening, not someone, something else’s.

I am their mother and I listen through the night

During the day I vacuum the rug and I clean the toilet and I do the laundry and when there is blood I use cold water and soap and prayer and I think of the times when clothing was washed on the rocks by the side of a stream and the laundresses laughed together and I wonder if there was a mother among them. Silent there by the river as she pounded out blood stains, exhausted from lying awake at night listening. 

I am their mother

I am their mother and I listen to the monitor not because I think they will get up by themselves, not because I worry they will have nightmares and wake with tears and a scream. I listen because I know that they are the nightmares, that when they get up it will not be alone.

I do not know if I am alone. If it had a mother. If it does still.

I am their mother.

And I am listening.

Aili Meister lives, reads, and makes things in Seattle, WA. She is the mother of two children who are (probably) not harbingers of the apocalypse. 

A Song for Aili

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