It must be.

9 Jun

What it must be to be a mom.

What it must be to be a mom born in Mexico these days, living here in these less than welcoming United States.

What it must be to be a mom whose son is on an eighth grade trip this unusually crowded weekend in the busiest city in the country, at times drizzly, others radiating a sweltering humidity, walking as we did yesterday eight miles and seven today. When your son is developmentally challenged.

Enrique has a mouthful of braces, the first thing you notice about him as it would be the first thing you’d noticed about nearly any Eighth Grader would they just smile a fraction as much as Enrique does. He is not always smiling. He will go away in his vast mind to a place you cannot follow, a place that seems to take all of his energy and interest, leaving you alone and oddly sad you can’t go with him–you miss Enrique–but shortly, he’s back with you and the surprise of your presence bursts forth on his face like Christmas morning. That weird handshake you did with him to introduce yourself? He can’t get enough. You will repeat it a thousand times. Because you want to.

Enrique has skin kissed by sun gods, ample jet black hair, and a pair of dark brown eyes that are tandem proof of eternity. When they fix themselves on the passing lights of a subway tunnel–he’s turned himself towards the window on the C train and away from you and your eyes feel like spilling over because you hope he is okay in there–you wonder how it must be to be his mom and seated next to him, looking at his absence like the very Pieta. It’s almost silly. None of you are connecting, except on some quantum level where observation is changing the very atoms of your cells.

Then from across a crowded subway he catches you catching him and he is back and squealing your name and you wonder wait, you had a hard time getting out of bed this morning? You’d have missed this?

So you go up to Enrique’s mom as you sit on the steps of creation, the casual yet sweeping stairs of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, to tell her how much Enrique moves you. But she bravely grabs the reins of conversation first, despite a minor struggle with the language, and tells you how much Enrique loved The Met, how she let him walk through just three rooms in the Egyptian Wing, but letting him go to any of the pieces that called out to him with a luxury of time each piece took to reveal itself to him. And you wonder how on earth this mother from Mexico living in California has the extraordinary wisdom to craft this extraordinarily deft experience for her boy, her exquisite son.

And for some reason, today, at that perfect moment of weather on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, when the aches of the early morning have been blown away by Enrique’s breezes and you feel no pain anywhere in your body and the sun is warm but not hot, and you’re nearly done your twelve hour day, the moment you tell yourself will register in your memory forever when so many many others have fallen into the oblivion of your tattered old mind, for no reason whatsoever, you find yourself heaving with uncontrollable sobs. You cannot stop yourself.

What it must be to be a mom watching a stranger break down in front of you after having to watching your son like a hawk for the last three days.

When she asks if you are alright you say,


And you choke on the next word.

She tries to help you, in a difficult language, roaming the landscape of the heart, by finishing what she thinks is your thought.

“Oh, you probably know now or someone has told you that Enrique…”

What it must be to be a mom in a second language in a second country searching for an adjective to describe your son.

For her you finish your sentence. In the shadow of a million masterpieces.

“Is the most beautiful thing on earth.”


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