My eyes swung up from the water as you and your son entered. I immediately felt a connection blossom behind my navel. A thin, invisible thread between you and me, though you were unaware of our similarities. I watched, as did some of the other mothers, from my bench as you and your son made your way to our end of the pool. I saw your hands guiding him, the halting steps as his body leaned in so close, his eyes darting around, your cheeks pink from the heat of the room, or the heat of prying eyes. As you passed by me I saw the dark circles under your eyes, the way you held yourself, and the determination in your jaw. I did not avert my gaze and you looked down at me, our eyes locked, and I smiled big. You smiled back at me.
I wanted to watch you, but I didn’t want to stare, as some of the other mothers were staring from across the small pool, their eyes wide and their faces blank. In my peripheral vision I could see your son’s hands, always moving. Flitting about his face, to your hair, your shirt, your gentle smile. He put his arm around your neck, his face so close to yours, and kissed you over and over. You did not pull away, only redirected his attention. I saw love.
I couldn’t help but watch as his lesson started, in the lane next to my son’s, his long body immediately relaxing as he floated on a noodle. I wanted to catch your eye again, but you were focused on him, just as I am usually focused on my own special son. I noticed your towel bag, with the blue whale and the “I love water!” written on the side. I thought about how it is the perfect bag for my son too, and I wanted to tell you.
If you gave any thought to me at all, wondered which of the four boys was mine, I will never know. You couldn’t know how we are connected.
The Roc’s lesson ended before your son’s. I coaxed him to stay with me while I waited for the shower area to clear out. When it was empty I let him stand under the spray. Then I did glance back to our, now your, end of the pool. You sat alone, leaning forward, elbows on your knees, chin in your hand, your cheeks still rosy.
You never looked up, never looked around the small pool at the few small children remaining. You were watching your boy.
A small smile on your lips, your eyes full of pride.
I smiled watching you, wondering about the years leading up to this point. I saw myself in you, and then I saw what the world sees as they watch me while I watch my son. I hadn’t thought about it, always consumed by my feelings in the moment, and I felt that invisible thread once again. Tugging on my heart, reminding me of how much I learn and gather strength from those who are also walking a different path.
I don’t know if I will see you again tomorrow. If I do, I’ll try not to stare, but I will catch your eye if I can, and I’ll smile big.
We are connected.
Even if I am the only one who knows.