At the Indian restaurant, the chef comes in from the kitchen to play with my baby. She takes him from my arms and holds them in her own, an experienced hand. The chef jiggles him up and down and takes him to the front of the restaurant to see the coloured fairy lights in the window – on off, on off.
“I have a 15-year-old son back in India,” she had said.
I watch this mother-chef as she smiles and talks with my baby, and my heart is filled, again, with a familiar sensation – of love and gratitude and grief all in one, spreading outwards, dye thrown in water.
In the days after giving birth to Quinn, I would watch him as he slept in our bed, and I would weep for all the mothers who had ever lost a son. Tears for the hours and hours of love poured into a boy who is killed in an instant at war. Tears for my great-grandmother who lost two sons, my grandmother whose baby boy never came home from the hospital, and my own mother whose child, a grown man by then, took his last breath beside her.
Tears for the unimaginable: losing Quinn. People lose children all the time. The grief is a boulder in my belly, made heavier each day I get to spend with my son.
The chef, the mother, is smiling, cooing. I hear my son singing back to her – it’s something he has been learning to do lately…my sister says he sounds like a baby dinosaur, raucously employing his full vocal range as we make music together. A small sound or movement of protest from Quinn, and the chef-mother has returned in a flash, reluctantly handing the wiggling child back.
How is life so kind as to gift me with a son, and so cruel as to place a continent between another mother and her son?
I am watching this woman with my baby in her arms, knowing that in a moment he will be back in mine. I will open the door and stroll down the street, little one tucked up against my chest, bopping yellow beanie pulled over his little ears. We will go home and he will show me how he is learning to roll and learning to sing. I will clap and gather him up in his little fuzzy suit he wears at night. He will feed at my breast and pull his mouth away with a plop when he’s done, and fall asleep right there in his favourite spot.
My eyes brim with the sweetness and injustice of it all.