Lately I've been looking for a really safe place. A place to explore being all that I am without my two greatest fears flooding the camp: hurting other people and losing myself entirely. Church hasn't been safe. I've been given a community of friends that seems safe. But, how do I know? How can I be sure? I've tried to think of moments in life when I've felt really safe. I time when I my mind isn't spinning, my eyes scanning and re-scanning the room, or my voice crying out, "Is it safe? Am I safe?"
I remember my mother's embrace. She gives a world-class hug. She's always told me it's because of her abundant bosom. I tell her I love her hugs. "It's the boobs," she says. She's a couple of inches shorter than I am, so when I lean into her I slump to rest my head on her shoulder. My face nuzzles into her neck and her soft, blond hair tickles my cheek. I breath in her sweet perfume and she smells like home.
I inhale deeper. She squeezes tighter. Her hands press deeply into my back, as if to say, "Let go, baby girl." She won't release me until I exhale properly. Until I relinquish my caregiver arms and cede that role to her. The roles are clearly established in that first embrace. She's there to take care of me and I'm there to receive. There will be no debate, no question. If I start to pull away too soon, she pulls me closer.
A breath surges from my toes and forcefully escapes my lips with the sound of a deflating air mattress. She knows. She's always known. I surrender my weight and with it my worries. Once she knows I'm done fighting, she pulls her arms back ever so slightly and begins rubbing my back. Now she starts to sway, sway and hum. I'm 4 again, or 10, 18, 25-because she was there, always the same hug, always the same listless feeling.
She cradles my face in her hands as she pulls away. She kisses my lips slowly and turns her countenance to me. I am the world to her in that moment. Her face always glows: she's the sunshine. But, in that moment it glows for me. A mother's pride, perhaps, or just a met longing in seeing her daughter again. I think it's more than that, though. I think, when my mom stops time to look into my eyes, still fuzzy from her embrace, she's sending me a message. "I see you." And in seeing me, she loves me: fully and without restraint.
Tearfully, we sink into another hug. This one shorter, but just as meaningful. We seal the moment we had. We hug again to acknowledge this beautiful moment and receive all the blessing it entails. This is what happens every time I see my mother. This is my safe place.