i hold this in my hands

I am not a good mother when I am sick. I am not as good of a mother when M is sick for an extended time. The irritability creeps up my neck and radiates out my fingernails. I feel ugly. I sometimes respond in a barely controlled voice.

And for what? I often wonder exactly what point I am trying to make. As if my irritability has any inference aside from confusion, those chocolaty brown eyes gazing up at me, wondering who this woman is, this mommy.

You are the best mommy, M says while crawling in my lap. Oh, baby, I think, I don't think so. I am really quite the bitch.

It's no one fault, sickness. It's a passing thing, a trivial mundanery, a pebble in a shoe. It's not what defines me, and yet it is. Because showing up on the hard days is sometimes when it matters the most. Anyone can be a mom on the easy days, the days of sunshine and playgrounds. But on days of wind and sorrow, gasping and sighs? It's only then that the measure is taken, the cord of wood split.

I wield the axe, heavy in my hand. I can build a fire, I think. Or I can build a fort around myself and hide under the walls. But no one will come looking, eyes turn away from dusty corners, sharp edges tend to wound.

It's the light that we cleave to, the brightness in their eyes. I am still me, underneath.