I heard the screams first and knew immediately it was one of mine. We mothers are gifted like that, so intertwined in spirit with our young that we recognize their voices in a sea of noise. I swallowed hard, looking up from my position by my in-laws’ sink, dripping hands motionless over the counter.
“Brian,” I tried to keep the panic from my voice, “That’s Asher!”
He was up off the couch and running along with several of his family. Out the door. They all moved.
I stood with my hands over my mouth.
Because I knew.
He had been playing in the “yard” with his cousins. I say yard, loosely, because in Phoenix, a yard is stones and cacti, and palm trees, and a few other plants. I had seen them earlier, dodging rocks and plants to kick a blue nerf ball onto the patio roof. And I had wondered if it that was okay.
But it wasn’t.
It had happened.
And I knew.
I knew because earlier that day my Bella had been trying to keep up with the bigger kids and tried to take a short cut between two cacti. She had gotten trapped, but fortunately it only snagged her dress. I knew because Mama Bears don’t think when their young are screaming in terror, they act, and I got a spine stuck in my own arm rescuing my Audrey. And it hurt. A lot. And it was just one.
So I knew.
I knew that a little boy tripping into and over a cactus plant would not be good. I knew because I had never heard screams like that coming from my own son. And I knew because by the time I moved to the door, Brian was carrying him inside, stiff, keeping his legs from moving.
We moved him into our room, surveyed the damage, and I held his head, cradled in my lap while he screamed. It took two uncles to hold him down so Brian could pull the spines out. And I brushed his hair and wiped his tears and tried not to throw up. Because he was mine. And it was awful.
Brian finished, moved him to a warm salt bath, and the room emptied. Except for me. I sat there on the edge of the water bed, bobbing up and down to my deep breaths. Only the breaths wouldn’t come. I couldn’t take it. I knew I would hear those screams in my sleep that night. I finally rose to pick up towels and washcloths, grabbing shed clothing strewn over the floor, anything to do to keep me from thinking, and I turned to find my brother-in-law, Alan. “You okay?” was all he said. And I melted.
Because he was mine.
It was my boy who screamed for what felt like hours.
And it felt like the last straw in a few days of nightmare news. “I want to go home.” I whispered thickly, “No offense.” Then I laughed, “What was it I just told you in the kitchen?” I asked. Alan smiled, “Something about God being good no matter what.” I shook my head, took a deep breath and smiled back. “Yes. Something about that.”
Brian found me later, reeling under more news I had just received over the phone. “I can’t take it any more.” I said. “Can I be cloned? Can I be in Jersey and Pennsylvania and here and back home all at the same time?” Brian grinned, always able to calm me with his eyes, “Hon, you’re not the savior of the world, you know.”
That’s why He came.
I needed to hear that yesterday.
He leaned in, pressed his forehead to mine.
“Merry Christmas.” he whispered.
And I knew.
Of the world.
It is good.
He is good.
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