She held his bundled tiny body close to her heart as they stood outside in the moonlight. “As long as there’s a moon, know that I will love you forever.”
It was still an innocent world on that cold day in New York in November in 1963 when she became a mom at 19. For the next few days at a Christian home for girls, she memorized every detail of his sweet face. Every perfect angle was evidence of her bloodline. She etched every feature, every sound, and every snuggle into her soul. Tomorrow he would become another mother’s son. That is why on their last night together, she wanted to steal every precious moment she had left.
In the darkest night, she swaddled him in blankets and went outside to show him the moon. She promised him that as long as there was a moon, they would be connected, and she would love him. The next morning, as if his birth were a moonlit dream, she rode a bus alone to Florida with strict instructions to help her grandmother pack.
The Florida sun seemed to soothe the cold New England world. As she lived years of her new normal, men walked on that moon, and the Beatles urged her to let it be. By the time Kenny and Dolly found their Islands in the Stream, she was raising her next child, a daughter, as one of the best single mothers that ever lived. And her parents, the only ones who knew about the little boy, created this inarguable family narrative that the daughter was her only child. They never spoke of him, never even hinted. Not even once.
But like the earth’s nocturnal dance with the moon, some of life’s chapters can be disregarded for a while, but eventually, become impossible to ignore. Every night she wondered and prayed that he was doing well, that his new mother loved him in ways she couldn’t. She celebrated his birthdays in anguished silence, with a solemn birthday wish that he wouldn’t hate her for the decision she was forced into by her own father. As she ascended into her business success and hired young men to work, she went many steps beyond her immeasurable natural kindness in the hopes that karma would see her heart and somehow return that kindness to her own son. And as her second child slept peacefully, she would look to the moon and send blessings to her little boy, wherever he was. “As long as there’s a moon, know that I will love you forever.”
It was a warm and sunny summer day in retirement when her phone rang. The truth could no longer be hidden behind decades of denial. He wanted to know if it was her. Was it her, in the days of Camelot, when the world was still innocent? Was it her, in New York, on a cold November morning? The answer was a resounding yes. And just as the moon rose and set for almost five decades of their lives apart, tonight the moon would rise again and spread her beams of light on a new truth. And he didn’t have to forgive her for letting him go. He understood. Suddenly, just like when you notice the fullest, brightest moon in the sky, years of unworthiness and worry fell from her soul.
Family came from everywhere for her surprise seventieth birthday party, including the ultimate surprise of her two children standing side by side for the first time. We are remarkably similar, both brunettes, both wildly creative, born from a woman who has always understood love far more than life.
And as long as there’s a moon, she will be our perfect selfless mother. As long as there’s a moon, we will love her forever.