from The Mineral Palace by Heidi Julavits


She didn’t understand how she could have made a man like that. It didn’t seem possible that she could make a man, when men were something she couldn’t claim to know much about. p 14

Christmas day was spent amidst the presents, the wrapping paper and the twinkling lights. Everywhere you looked were boys, boys, boys. We had boys in bowties, boys in bathrobes. Boys with hamsters, boys with headphones. If you sat still long enough, a boy would come running over eager to introduce you to a new pet, convince you to play a game, hug you or strum a few chords on the guitar for your listening pleasure.

So much energy and enthusiasm, if only we could bottle it.

Over the years my dear a and I have bonded over our feminine minority. Sometimes we sit together, sipping our tea, while the chaos churns around us. There is a comfort in our stillness, like the eye of a hurricane. And while words like “chaos” and “hurricane” suggest devastation and destruction, I don’t mean it that way. These boys are my boys. I have been there when each of them took their first breaths. They have a different outlook on life, and a genetic predisposition for rambunctiousness. I have watched as the Easters, the birthdays and the Christmases pile on top of each other; while limbs grow and stretch, voices deepen and new passions are discovered.

And with the oldest getting ready to head off for college, I realize that our holidays might take on a slightly different form, so I’m soaking up our togetherness while it lasts. Taking pictures and tucking moments into my memory box for safe-keeping.

In truth, I miss those heady days of being in a baby fog. But if I close my eyes I can still recall the first Christmas for each of these boys. Swaddled in footie pajamas, not yet understanding the pleasure of ripping open a present or waking before the sun to see if Santa had yet made his deliveries.

This is what I miss:

She had a new favorite part of his body every few days. At first it was the arch of his foot, then the back of his knee, his walnut ears. She didn’t feel capable of loving the entirety of him, so instead she loved him, manageably, in pieces. p 7

Honestly, I still feel that way each time we come together to celebrate a holiday. One of the boys will have grown a few inches, another will have gotten a haircut and another will have lost a tooth. Being in the middle of them is a bit intoxicating, like stepping in to a bakery. You know you can only have a little something, but yet you could stand there for hours and just breath it all in.

I still marvel at the fact that somehow we have created these boys, but in turn, they have created us.

After a mere three months of motherhood, her own reflection appeared to her scant and unnecessary without Little Ted. Her singular body wasn’t enough to justify her place in the world any longer. p 28

We are mothers. Mothers of boys, mothers of teens and someday mothers of men. Men who will someday bring people home for holidays. Special persons who—we hope—will adore our children as much as we do. But for now they are ours. To hug, to hold. To brush the hair away from their faces as they sleep, having crashed on the couch after waking up at 4 AM. It’s good to get an early start to Christmas, or so the boys tell me.

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