Tag Archives: motherhood

In the Shadows – Blog Battle

This is my last Blog Battle entry (probably) until December, since NaNoWriMo beckons and will demand my attention. The genre is sci-fi.

 Clouds blanketed the sky, but the third moon’s violet glow pierced the veil with dim but unwavering light.
Dressed in clothing like dingy, tattered rags, a mother and her son huddled in the shadow of volcanic stone jutting from a nearby vent. Thick ash fluttered through air corrupted by sulfur’s stench.
 “I may not always be here to guide you to a new refuge.” She choked on the words, and not from the fumes. No one traveled at night, when the creatures swarmed across the barren landscape. But her last refuge lay in ruins. Her love most likely lay among the slain. Scattered and pursued, the survivors fled in every direction. 
 The sense of loss hounded her, hammered at her wavering strength, screamed in her ears to give up and die. Her son’s wide, innocent eyes kept her anchored, kept her from wailing and running into the night toward certain death.

 Squatting in the darkness, she looked her son in the eye. “You must be most cautious at night,” she said in a terse whisper.

 “Because Stoneskins hide in the shadows?” he asked, barely audible. He’d learned well.

 “No, because they’re nocturnal. Do you know what that word means?”

 The boy looked around, struggling for an answer. His eyes lit up with insight. “The knocking noise they make when they talk to each other?”

 She chuckled and kissed his soot-stained head. “No, sweetie. It means they only move around after sunset. But the good news is they stay out of the shadows. I don’t think they like the darkness either.”

 A gout of steam released from the vent behind them, and the ground shook. 

 The boy clapped his hand over his nose. “Ew,” he said with a giggle. “It stinks like Dad after dinner.”

 His mother shushed him and tried to keep composure, but the boy’s infectious delight could not be stopped. 

 Laughter felt foreign, alien, after so many years on the run since the colony ship landed on Beta Kaali Two. Sensors set for organic life offered no warning that the very stones of the planet might be alive. 

 A thought struck home and swept her joy away. “We might not see Dad again.” She patted the youngster, and put a finger to her lips.

 But the crack-crack of stones slamming together on the other side of the vent silenced them both at once. A Stoneskin drew near.

 She charged her nano-pistol and checked its settings. The gun’s nanites could disassemble the creatures on a molecular level. The devices proved the colonists’ only defense against the aliens. But supplies had long since dwindled. 

 If any of the Stoneskins attacked, she’d have three shots–maybe four.

 With one arm, she clutched her son to her chest and they became still as the rocky ground. No matter what, she thought, I will protect you. With my life, if I must.

 She closed her eyes and focused on the only sound that brought her peace, the too-fast beating of his heart.

 The rhythmic knocking of his brood mother soothed Ko-Kakrik and he clawed across the ground eager to follow her voice.

 “Do not wander into the shadows, little gravel-shell,” she said with fondness. 

 Ko-Kakrik sensed the vibrations around him and felt nothing apart from his mother’s movements and voice. He clacked his mandible stones together and asked, “Does the darkness deafen us to the sounds of the earth?” 

 “No, my spawnling,” she replied, with a stuttering clack that indicated amusement. 

 The mirth vanished and she cracked out a warning. “That is where the humans often hide. If they see you, they will spit venom from their claws to eat you alive.”

 Ko-Kakrik paused and listened again. For a moment he thought he felt another sound, a pair of thumping drumbeats nearby. 

 His stones beat together in a panic. “Mother?” 

 His mother’s claw rested upon his back and she guided him away. “Come along, and fear not. I will protect you. Even with my life, if I must.”

A Lifetime of Aftershocks

  

It’s Mother’s Day, and today I find myself considering the suffering that entails. It’s not an original thought, certainly. But it is one that touches me personally.

Childbirth seems to be the physical earthquake that leaves a lifetime of emotional aftershocks. Motherhood and sacrifice appear inextricably linked–so much so that it becomes all too easy to take for granted.

Our plans for my wife’s special day fit into a crowded schedule at work. Sunday turned out to be the one day she’d have me all to herself, the one day I could get the kids out of her hair for some length of time. I worked a full week and then some. And Saturday’s duty came with bad news.

My wife was about to find out Saturday night that I would have to depart first thing in the morning on Mother’s Day for a few days’ trip off island to avoid an inbound typhoon so that my unit can still perform our missions for the United States even if our home station is socked in with weather.

There’s no doubt in my mind that–though undeniably and appropriately frustrated–she would give me a hug and kiss, tell me she loves me, make sure the kids did the same, and settle in for a few days alone with four kids in the house awaiting the storm’s arrival and departure. Four kids–three of them battling a bit of cough, congestion, and fever. Four kids who get a lot of their, let’s say, “charm, creativity, and character” from me, much to my wife’s chagrin (and occasional delight). 

That I don’t have to worry or question her commitment astounds me, and makes me all the more grateful to this wonderful mother of my children. 

We luck out, and discover that we won’t have to leave quite so soon. Mother’s Day is back on.

It strikes me that I’ve spent more of my life in the military than out of it, a threshold I crossed a couple years ago, in fact. The pressures of sudden schedule changes and cancelled plans are nothing new. And I’ve had it incredibly good over the years compared to so many of my peers in the service. So I am not complaining or seeking pity here. That said, the life we’ve chosen sure comes with its share of challenges. 

My own mother spent hours listening to me play piano. We shared interests in music and creative expressions. I gained her laid-back “Type B” personality and sensitivity where my older brother and my father both loved history books, strategy games, and argumentative debates. Mom feared my soft-spoken personality would get crushed by the bullies and jocks of high school. She often wondered how I was doing and worried whether I’d be safe and out of trouble in my first few years away from home.

Being a parent now, I can see how there’s always a level of care and maybe even fear about your precious little ones. It’s a program running in the background of a parent’s mental computer, a constant blip on the radar. When I think of how mothers bond with their babies even before they’re born, I know my experience only scratches the surface of that attachment and concern.

Over the years, my mother (and father) bore the near-constant separation of military life with the bittersweet mixture of pride and longing one might expect. My family and I have been stationed in Japan for the majority of my 20-plus years of service. Through it all, Mom dealt with the painful distance between her and her grandkids on my side with what grace she could muster. Modern tech comforts like Skype and MagicJack make things a little easier.

Tomorrow I’ll wake up at 0-dark-thirty to get ready for a few days away from home. And I’ll make a phone call back to the States to thank my awesome Mom and wish her a happy day. Then, while the kids are still (hopefully) asleep, I’ll thank my wife for her own awesome mothering and slip out the door.

The Air Force has been focused on “resiliency” over the last few years, trying to educate and help its Airmen find ways to bounce back from stressful situations and potentially overwhelming experiences in their lives. I wonder if they’ve considered everything moms go through, and what makes a mother get back up and press on each time life brings another wave of hurt or weariness. 

Seems to me there’s a lot we could learn.

To my mother and my wife, who have made so many sacrifices that I’ve seen and probably many more that I’ve overlooked, thank you. To them both, and to the many women out there who do the same for their loved ones, their biological children, or those they’ve adopted literally or figuratively as their own:

You are awesome and the world is a better place due to your part in it. Your sacrifices matter, and your profound love is appreciated. 

Thank you.