In the dead of night, mothers find words to explain why children grow into adults

November 05, 1995|By SUSAN REIMER

Something compels mothers to rise from their beds in the night and write it down.

Tired beyond all telling by the job of raising children, mothers should be the last candidates for sleepless rumination. But unfinished thoughts that rustle in their brains like the leaves outside their window keep women awake.

Women lie in bed, stiff as an ironing board while trying to suppress the restlessness that would wake their partners, and reach out for some worry -- to think it through, to put it away. Just as quickly, it blows away, eludes them.

Women believe that if they write these thoughts down, their worries will coalesce, take some shape, assume some manageable form. And so they creep out of bed and record their troubles, their own night terrors.

That's what my sister did the night of her son's first homecoming dance. It was an open letter to his date, to me, to the world of other mothers. Something started welling up, expanding inside her until she popped out of bed like a champagne cork. To get it down on paper.

She wrote and wrote. The next day she found this waiting for her:

"My roses are disappearing. I see this beautiful bud -- the long-stemmed variety -- and the next morning it is gone.

"He's mine and you can't have him yet.

"The telephone rings a lot lately. My son is cloistered with the cordless for long periods of time. Hushed conversations and contagious laughter echo through the house.

"He's mine and you can't have him yet.

"Homecoming weekend. The voice on the phone now has a face, and it's lovely. This is the rose thief.

"He's mine and you can't have him yet.

"He's 5 feet 11, 135 pounds of gorgeous, weightlifter, runner. With a sense of humor only his father can top. He can relate to anyone, anytime, anywhere, with sincerity and interest. Everyone likes him. I do, too. He's my 16-year-old son. He is a work in progress, but he's not done yet.

"His father and I taught him well. He opens the door and waits for women to enter. If he is not completely truthful, his blush gives the game away. He isn't perfect but darn close. I keep time and exposure at bay with remarks that would make a psychologist cringe:

"Stop teasing your sister. You're taller, but I'm a nurse and I can break bones with little effort . . . Latex is permeable. There is no such thing as "safe sex" . . . If you are going to the Naval Academy, you cannot have a tattoo or a wife and child."

"But I digress. Homecoming. A weekend in heaven or hell, depending on whose hand you're holding. I must need new glasses. That isn't our son and his date in a clutch on the hillside watching the football game. Is it? My husband pulls him aside and says, "I'm going to get a fire hose."

" 'OK,' the boy says.

"I want to scream, 'He's mine and you can't have him yet.'

"A friend assured me that the toughest moment in child-rearing is handing your child the car keys and saying, 'Have fun.'

"Wrong.

"I look at my son and the new love of his life and I see joy so profound it makes you catch your breath. It is a gift from God. But with this comes the realization that not only do I have to let him go, I have to stand by and watch him go. Trusting that his bTC father and I have given him the gift of good morals and the ability to use them.

"I have a daughter coming up in the ranks," my sister's letter concludes. "She is already breaking hearts at 12 years old. When the boys call (and they are calling), her father says, 'She's not home.'

"I guess we will be looking into convents very soon."

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