Near Misses and Good-Night Kisses

Near Misses and Good-Night Kisses

From Chicken Soup for Every Mom's Soul

Near Misses and Good-Night Kisses

The art of being happy lies in the power of extracting happiness from common things.

Henry Ward Beecher

It had been one of those mornings—the kind that prompts mothers to think about their lives prior to motherhood.

My six-year-old son had mixed pancake batter in the blender—without the lid—leaving dribbles of Aunt Jemima trickling down cupboards, curtains, walls and stove. As I watched the goo quickly harden into a cement-like substance, I learned that our hamster, Houdini, had once again escaped from his cage.

“Bye, Mom,” my boy called as he dashed out the door en route to the school bus. “And, oh, Mom, you’re supposed to bring three dozen brownies to Scouts after school tonight.”

I thought more desperately about my life before motherhood. At first the memory was so foggy, I nearly concluded that parenthood had mercifully numbed that part of the brain responsible for recalling one’s past, carefree life. But then slowly, it began to come back. I recalled sleeping in on Saturday mornings, spontaneous trips to the mall and dining at the kinds of restaurants where soft drinks don’t have plastic lids. I dimly remembered a quiet, orderly house and a sparkling kitchen with nary a trace of pancake batter anywhere.

My husband broke my reverie on his way to the garage. He must have been reading my addled mind, for he whispered, “Just think what you would have missed.”

“Missed?” I scoffed, refocusing on my kitchen walls. “Hah!”

Yet once alone in the house, I reluctantly pondered what I might have missed, but for the pitter-patter of little sneakers. Cynically, I grumbled that I would have—and gladly—missed a number of sleepless nights and dirty diapers and chicken pox.

Then I smiled in spite of myself, remembering a plump, dozing baby curled in my arms. The memory made me think anew.

I realized I would have missed that sweet, toothless grin and the tiny dimpled fingers clenched earnestly around my own. I would have missed the first, halting “Mama” and the “Mommies” and “Moms” that have followed a thousand times over.

I might never have applauded a successful encounter with the potty, nor decorated my refrigerator with fledgling works of art, nor become a marathon swing pusher.

I certainly would have missed meeting Mr. Rogers, Bert and Ernie, and Kermit and the gang—all good, true friends. I might never have roasted marshmallows in the fireplace to the tune of irrepressible giggles, or felt a small body pressed next to mine during a thunderstorm.

I would have missed countless bedtime stories, goodnight hugs and kisses and the nightly litany of “God blesses” that included the crickets under the front porch.

I never would have mourned a fish named Harold, nor housed a birds’ nest collection, nor spent a near lifetime assembling a super-galactic command center.

The birthday parties, the trips to the zoo, the sand pies, the dashes through the sprinkler and the walks around the block—I would have missed them all.

I never would have known my parents as grandparents. I would have missed my dad baiting a fishhook with a “Willy Worm,” as wondrous brown eyes widened to saucers. I would have missed my mom rocking her “sugarplum” and singing his favorite country-western tune. There’s a deeper love and appreciation for my own parents that I might never have felt had I not been a parent myself.

I would have missed knowing my husband as a father. I would never have witnessed that serene, reflective man transformed into a bucking bronco or riding the Tilt-a-Whirl for the sixth straight time with a curly head tucked securely in the crook of his arm. I might not have learned what it means to truly look up to another—to see a little boy who unknowingly adores his father so much that he walks like him and talks like him and even cocks his head in just the same way.

I wouldn’t have shared my child’s fears and apprehensions and felt them more poignantly than my own, nor regaled in his joys and successes, nor prayed for his health. I would have dearly missed experiencing the unconditional love a mother has for a child.

And, if the truth be known, I would have missed reliving the magic moments of childhood through my own child’s eyes: the visits to Santa and hunting for Easter eggs, trick-or-treating, lighting sparklers and summertime stops for a double-dip cone.

I would have especially missed the laughter—the fresh, young child’s laughter that bounces off the walls and rolls down the stairs, filling a house with life and warmth. It’s an infectious kind of laughter, perhaps the glue that keeps a family close.

Suddenly, I laughed out loud myself as the truant Houdini waddled out from under a chair and wiggled his nose at me. I laughed until tears dampened my cheeks, thankful that I hadn’t missed a single moment of motherhood.

Sally Nalbor

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