Careworn: adj. showing the effect of grief or anxiety. Or, so the dictionary tells me. But it sounds like a battered old blanket given too much attention--a mother's face, crinkled like tissue paper dreams. Perhaps these are not mutually exclusive. I think of careworn as literally worn down by love and a steady committed tenderness that may or may not have anything to do with sorrow.
It made me remember this black and white photo of my mother washing a bottle in the sink. She wears her pale robe and a face so overwhelmed with exhaustion I want to weep for her. When my two year old is up from 4am to 6, crying about imaginary threats like "bugs with red eyes and teeth" or the likelihood of the ceiling fan falling on her as she sleeps, I go down the stairs to get her a drink and catch sight of myself in the microwave reflection. The similarity of the bleary-eyed, desperate cast of my face to my mother's stops me cold. Suddenly, I know what careworn is.
In this same kitchen decades earlier, my mother stalked these sloping floors affected by a broken sleep of her own. The undated snapshot reveals no clues of time--the bottle she is rinsing could very well be mine. I want to say, "I understand your expression." Because I do. Someday, my children will rise in the lonely hours just before dawn to sooth a fearful baby, to fetch a drink, or to smooth rumpled covers over a wide-eyed little one. They will think of me...these daughters, this son--and I know a current of grief will press against their bones.
"I am sorry I stole your dreams, Mom," they will whisper.
Like me, they'll wait for slivers of sun rocking in a chair through the last moments of darkness. They will silently thank the ones whose arms held on before they could carry themselves alone through the long night.
Mamasaysom theme of the week...careworn.