25: Safety Arms

25: Safety Arms

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Thanks to My Mom

Safety Arms

A mother’s arms are made of tenderness and children sleep soundly in them.

~Victor Hugo

I don’t remember the day my mother saved my life. But for her, the memory of that day is vivid. When she recalls those events, she’s thirty-five years old again and I am a tiny bundle in her arms.

It’s early March, but the icy wind bites like it’s the depths of December. My mother tucks the blanket even tighter around me as she hurries to the clinic door. I am two months old, and this is our third visit to the doctor this week. Each time a different face says the same words: “It’s nothing. Just a simple cold, ma’am.” Today is no different. My mother leaves feeling frustrated, convinced that my constant congestion is something more. At home, she keeps me closer than normal, constantly monitoring my breathing and worriedly stroking my baby fuzz hair.

When I wake up that blustery Thursday morning, gasping for air, her arms are around me with quick sureness, running me out to the car. We fly past stop signs and red lights, my mother periodically wrenching one white-knuckled hand from the steering wheel to jiggle my car seat as I rasp. “Breathe, Alana! Breathe!” she cries out. Small tears that fall onto my bluish face are mirrored in my mother’s sapphire eyes, desperation finally taking over.

We reach the hospital, and her safety arms are around me again. “This baby can’t breathe!” my mother shouts, her voice ringing out above all the beeping. Even as tubes and doctors surround me, her arms never let me go, and I breathe in sweet air.

Now I’m twelve years old, and those same arms enclose me as I crumple onto the cold, blue-green slate of the kitchen floor. She whispers soothing words. My sister’s head rests on her shoulder. A few feet away, my older brother slumps against the wall, holding our dog Dotch’s head in his lap.

The doorbell rings. My mother pauses, looking up at my brother and silently asking him to be strong. She attentively unfolds my sister and me from her arms, then looks at each of us. Her blue eyes soften, and if I were older I might glimpse how hard the situation is for her too. “It’s going to be okay,” she promises quietly. The veterinarian is waiting. Standing up, my mother kisses each of us on the forehead before approaching the door. She is completely composed as she smiles and politely welcomes the veterinarian.

We knew this day was coming, and our parents had prepared us for it. Yet putting our beloved fifteen-year-old dog to sleep is harder than all of us had imagined. When the moment finally comes, my mother prepares a spoon overflowing with peanut butter—Dotch’s favorite treat—to distract Dotch from the hovering needle. My mother’s warm fingers enclose mine. The vet murmurs a string of words, but I don’t hear. As Dotch’s eyes close for the last time, I fight back tears inside those safety arms.

Today I’m seventeen, and for most people that means the times for dependence are over. It’s early September, and I am applying to colleges. My fingers type out essays, addresses, achievements, awards. I stare for hours at the computer screen until it’s all I can see, and I am overwhelmed. Suddenly, I feel young and unsure. When did I go from child to adult? Behind me, the door creaks open, interrupting my trance. My mother enters carrying a bowl of steaming soup. “How’s it going, honey?” She sets the bowl in front of me as I groan in response.

Standing up to stretch, I suddenly ache with stiffness all over my body. She holds out her arms, and I sink into them. For the first time that day, I feel comfort and safety and strength; it’s all going to be okay.

And I realize that dependence is not a weakness; rather, it is the appreciation that with someone by my side, I am much stronger than I will ever be alone. My mother’s support is and will always be unfaltering. Each embrace brings strength; each small word encourages me to pursue my dreams. No, I may not remember the moment my mother saved my life so long ago. However, looking back, I see that this was not a one-time occurrence. My mother saves my life every day.

~Alana Patrick

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