MAMA! MAMA! Peals of excited laughter greeted me as my wonderful boys bounded towards me, all grins, almost knocking me over in their wild exuberance. I was overjoyed. All my pent-up anxiety and suppressed emotions which I have learned to so tightly control exploded in that instant into tears of unbridled joy as Sammy and Benji hurtled themselves into my outstretched arms and we tumbled in one big heap, all arms, legs and laughter into one another.
I couldn’t stop the flow of tears, I was so overcome with relief, happiness and pure delight at our happy reunion. It’s been almost 3 weeks since we were last together. Even the woman at the visiting centre – normally so composed and unemotional as dictated by the precepts of her job , appeared visibly moved. ‘It’s lovely to see the children react so well,’ she said smiling.
We sang and danced as we walked along, holding hands and swinging in a joyous chain, grinning at each other as we went. I was past caring what others thought. No doubt we painted a comical scene. Why would any mother behave so wildly excited with her children at the bus stop at 9am on a Sunday morning? But my hours with the boys are too few and far too precious to reflect much on public appearances.
Preparing for their visit today – cleaning their room, cooking and shopping for their favourite foods and setting the table with extra precision for our special breakfast together after so long apart, it struck me how these basic tasks – things I used to do every day without a second thought or admittedly, much appreciation – had suddenly become so consequential. The mundane, ordinary responsibilities of any ordinary mother – for me elevated to monumental significance and cherished now that life had changed so drastically. I doubt I’ll ever be able to take the domestic chores of childcare for granted again.
Our journey home followed the usual playful rituals but today were imbued with extra delight and sense of novelty. The little treats I always bring for them – one in each coat pocket which they love to find and fish out – was an especially funny game and the usual landmarks became exciting discoveries to point at. It’s amazing how long three weeks can feel.
Arriving home, they bounded from one room to the next, shrieking with excitement and delight at finding everything in place, their toys waiting, all just as they remembered. We put on their favourite music and danced together with wild abandon, squealing and laughing, enjoying such care-free fun!
They ate heartily – cereal, toast, yoghurts and juice, a sense of security and calm, visibly feeling safe in their familiar environment, was etched into their smiling faces. They even cleaned their lunch plates, meatballs and rice, too.
As they played throughout the day, unwrapped their new toys, and became engrossed in their new radio controlled cars, they beamed intermittently at me and I was able to catch very hopeful glints of a twinkle in their eyes.
As is always the case, it was over all too soon. At 4.15 it was time to reverse the whole rigmarole of bringing them back: putting on their shoes and coats and embarking on the 45 minute arduous journey back to the visiting centre on crowded, bustling trams and buses. Clutching hands the entire way, we snuggled together while I tried my best to reassure them . In soft, gentle tones, out of earshot of the other passengers, I told my precious boys how proud I was of them, how much I love them and care for them. ‘Mummy may not always be physically with you but I’m always watching out for you. I will never, ever abandon you,’ I said stroking their cheeks and kissing the tops of their heads.
I wondered how much they understood as they gazed intently but unresponsively back. Then, to my surprise and amazement, Sammy’s face cracked into a broad grin. ‘MAMA!’ he sighed deeply and lunged forward to hug me tightly. Benji followed. In that moment, all my fears and doubts were assuaged and I was the happiest mum in the world.
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