Portrait Of A Mom

Alysa Salzberg Boys

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All I can know for sure is what he tells me.

Yesterday, my son passed me a drawing he’d made and said, “Picture of Maman.”

I was moved, and carefully cut out the portrait and put it on the fridge, but I didn’t give much credence to what he’d drawn. He’s two and a half, and his drawings are just scribbles It was truly the thought that counted. But as I was washing the dishes in the quiet hours just after midnight, I looked over at the drawing and suddenly wondered if there might have been more to it.

I looked at it, a series of jutting lines, and suddenly something seemed to reveal itself.  Perhaps the angular lines at the top are my head, turned to one side, and maybe those large jutting lines below it are my arms. It made me realize how often my arms are open to him—open for an embrace, to show exasperation, to pick him up, to put on his clothes, to dance to “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!” Sometimes, too, I must seem to fly around like a Valkyrie, maybe angry about something, maybe nervous, maybe just desperately trying to straighten up our apartment before a guest arrives.

For my son, I must be mostly arms, just like the picture.

The rest of me is reduced to a sort of meandering “x.” Where is my maternal belly, where are my thick legs? It seems he sees none of that, and I’m not sure what to feel.

Maybe it means that he sees beyond what society has deemed imperfections—but then again—he’s two and a half and probably hasn’t completely figured out what physical imperfections even are. It’s one of the things I love about him, one of the things I hope will never change.

He’s fascinated by difference, and surrounded by it, in our diverse neighborhood. Every morning, just before my husband leaves for work, we all climb into bed together and chat. He looks into my eyes and then at my husband’s and tells us what color they are: different colors, but no preference is shown.

But none of that is in my portrait. What is there, though, maybe, is something formidable, those open arms, those broad shoulders I hate. In the eyes of my son, I am an icon. This could be the cover of my debut album, the design on the customized curtain for my stage show, a mix of comedy and standards.

Basically, what my two and a half year old sees when he looks at me is Mom: I’m the one who picks him up, who gives him hugs, who cradles him when he’s wrapped in his towel after his bath, who tries her very hardest to protect him.

I’m the one who comes in to lean over him in his crib at night, my arms like hanging vines, carefully stroking his cheek in a wordless “I love you” when what divides us is more than years lived and things seen: the scribbled lines of his dreams.


About the Author

Alysa Salzberg

Alysa Salzberg is a writer and worrier. She lives in Paris with an eccentric Frenchman, a train-obsessed toddler, and a charming cat. Besides them, she loves books, travel, & cookies. You can read about her adventures , or feel free to stop by and check out her .

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