I wore a white dress lined with lace. My hair was pinned with curls. Spring daffodils and alstroemeria, stock and freesia spilled from my fingers. A guitar was fingerpicked as I walked down the steps of a redwood grove in the crook of my grandfather’s arm. The man I promised to love, his eyes were pools of devotion, hope and joy. It was one of the most memorable days of my life. And we cried. We made promises. We exchanged bands secured tightly to the ring fingers of our left hands. We sealed our love with a kiss. Open hearts witnessing our promises cheered. Then we danced. We laughed, shared stories, ate and then danced some more. We threw out wishes of love to our friends and family and danced, danced into the moonlight.
I thought of our wedding day this year, as our five-year anniversary approached in spring, when daffodils popped up from beneath the soil and the air cooled my skin. Our once romantic anniversaries spent cuddling in bed and breakfasts or recounting the year’s accomplishments turned to a casual afternoon of pizza slices and relaxation – with a six month old we couldn’t have asked for anything more.
That night, with the moon as my companion while my husband put our baby to bed, I thought more about vows. Promises. Ballads we recite of our best selves we try again and again to attain. Pledges we make in earnest, in honesty. And I thought, the moon’s light filling my eyes – for lifetimes of love, we’ve inscribed promises on our hearts to lovers – but what about to our children? Then and there I decided to write vows to my child, to my son, a vow of love, of motherhood for as long as he lives.
I, Jessica, take you, Isaac, to be my son from this day forward.
I offer you my solemn vow to be your mother in sickness and in health, in good times and in bad, and in joy as well as in sorrow.
I promise to remain gentle and patient.
I promise to be present and mindful with you and in all my parenting decisions.
I promise to teach you values, ethics, morals and goodness not merely through words and teachings, but through personal action and experiences.
I promise to speak honestly and truthfully.
I promise to admit my imperfections, teach you forgiveness, compassion and kindness.
I promise to love you as a human being, not with any expectations as how you should be as a man or a boy, but as a free, evolving spirit.
I promise to love you unconditionally, to support you in your goals,
to honor and respect you, to laugh with you and cry with you,
and to cherish you for as long as we both shall live.
The night I wrote vows to my son was as still as the night I labored. I think more about the day of his birth. I dressed in a robe and drips of sweat; my hair was pinned back with determination, my eyes drifted into a distant world. My hands clenched a small, purple stone with the etchings strength. I roared a primal song. I leaned my head into the crutch of my husband’s neck. And I danced. Swayed. I danced and swayed with my baby and husband.
In this movement, in that transformational event, I now recognize I was writing the vows all along, with each contraction, each push, each tear, each prayer to my traveling baby boy.
And just as the dance with my husband was different than with my baby boy, my promises to him will be different, my teachings and learning will be different – but the one similarity I hope will show through to both the men in my life, is the unconditional love, the simple, full, all encompassing love a woman is capable of. This is a promise I am proud to make for as long as we all shall live.