Airport security lines. In major cities, like New York, they are long, almost a mile long, winding around the vast lobby. We stood. We inched our way, one step at a time, or two… it was almost two hours before we began to snake around the black ropes near the security check booths. Tired, by that time, backs aching, still moving an inch at a time and pushing our carry-ons ahead with our toes. Short conversations with the young guys ahead of us, also tired and afraid of missing their flight, didn’t alleviate the boredom and fatigue.
Behind us, snaking along the black-belted aisle in the opposite direction, a young woman balanced a baby (maybe 10 to 12 months old) on her hip while she searched her purse for the required identification. Her stringy blond hair was pulled back in a pony tail, slim legs in tight jeans. Having found the papers she needed, she turned to her blond, blue-eyed baby, bouncing him and laughing at his giggles.
Her face was alive with joy. Speaking and cooing to him in a language I didn’t recognize (probably Hungarian or Finnish), she bore a beaming expression unique to mothers doting on their young. Even lovers, gazing with adoration at one another, do not have this particular expression. It is a mother-to-baby look, and it is the very same, common to every country, every nationality, every economic class, every race.
Watching her radiant joy made me smile. Their communication filled me with a happiness that effaced my exhaustion and annoyance with security procedures. And I sighed with unfulfilled longing. This loving exchange between a mother and her child is probably commonplace to most people; they expect it, consider it normal. But it isn’t there for everyone. My mother never looked at me like that. She did not cuddle and coo and delight in my infantile presence. I never knew that with her. She was dutiful and responsible and took motherhood seriously, but she never knew the joy of it.
I soak up that joy whenever and wherever I can find it. Watching my kids with their kids, seeing people at the zoo, in supermarkets, or standing in an airport security line. I absorb it, love it, and pretend to have known my own mother’s tender, devoted caress. I didn’t. But I thank God for the child He gave to me and the opportunity to experience that particular joy with my own precious little boy.