I peaked from under the brim of my hat – nervously watching their wet feet carefully slide across the edge of the rocks. The skin around their toes shrivelled up from being in the water too long. Their skin all different shades – some darker than others; some by DNA others by the warmth of the sun. All different sizes. Small feet, medium feet, large feet — all wet and vulnerable to easily loosing grasp on the sharp edges of the cliff rocks they insisted on climbing. I looked up from under the brim of my hat to look at their smiling faces full of pride, courage and a little fear. Their skin shivering, covered with goosebumps. Hair wet dripping down their shirtless torso’s into their soaked swim trunks. The wind blew an uncomfortable cold breeze emphasizing their goosebumps and mine under my layers of clothing.
Hand on tree branch. Foot gripped on tree trunk. Nervous smile on face; he assessed the area of the lake down below the cliff, calling out to his friends on the other side to watch him complete the jump. It didn’t matter that I sitting on the sidelines would be witness to this adventurous accomplishment – his friends needed to be witness. Only then would a passage to boyhood be granted.
I took a deep breath, shut my eyes, and listened; secretly praying that I would soon hear the sound of the water down below break. I exhaled with the sound of the splash down below. He made it. His buddy at the top of the cliff smiled, laughed and made his way to the edge of the cliff, prepping himself for his very own right of passage. Hand on tree branch. Foot gripped on tree trunk. Nervous smile on face. My heart skipped a beat; his likely accelerated from the adrenaline rush. Splash.
With each successful splash into the lake, the smiles at the cliff up top grew wider and wider. The pride exploded into fearlessness and the encouragement for higher, more ignorantly dangerous cliff jumps grew taller than their lanky selves.
With every jump, every vulnerable climb of wet feet on top of the cliff rocks; my breath was shortened, my heart skipped a beat and my mind ran through all of the dangerous scenarios that one slip up could materialize.
As I nervously sat there and watched this display of courageously foolish boyhood display, I wondered how I could ever endure this if Jude’s feet were the wet ones running across the cliff edge. I know that the simple answer appeasing my heart and nerves would be simply to not allow it. Not allow him to go anywhere near the edge of that cliff. Not allow him to jump off even the smaller rock landings only 1/2 a storey high – never mind 3 storey highs being played out in front of my very own eyes. Nope. He just simply would not be allowed to participate in such dangerous activities . In fact, I wondered ,where were the mother’s of these boys. How could they allow them to participate in this. Didn’t they see the danger? Didn’t they know the value of their little boys’ lives?
But, with each little boy splash into the lake, out came the wet face of a little man – displaying the newly gained self-confidence that only a jump from a 3 storey high cliff into a lake can give you. It was the presence of that newly gained self-confidence that enabled me to watch jump after jump, making me realize that if Jude was physically present with me, that I wouldn’t be able to deprive him of that feeling. That sense of pride. Sense of accomplishment. Right of passage to Boyhood. That innocent display of free childhood made me realize that my motherhood is tough. It’s hard and at most times overshadowed by immense sadness from the loss of my sweet Jude. But it also made me realize that the motherhood of any of the moms of those boys on the cliff that evening at sunset wasn’t exactly any easier just because their little boys were alive and physically present. Their motherhood was overshadowed by the constant balance of love and fear. Fear that in a blink of an eye, one wet foot slip off the edge of a cliff rock could end badly. But against the orange light of the setting sun, love won; as they too held their breath, peaking from under the brim of their hats watching their little boys jump into the lake and come out a little man conquering their passage into boyhood.