We are flying down the highway. My father is at the wheel, and my mother in the passenger seat. I am sitting in the back, panicking aloud about something, as usual. My sister has her headphones in, staring pensively out the window.
“You never stop talking,” my mother interrupts, her tone gentle. “Take a breath.”
Now, it is my mother’s turn to speak. “Where does it come from, all your stress? I wish I could take it away from you and put it on my own shoulders. Give it to me.” She is holding out her hands.
I place my hypothetical stress in her cupped hands.
“It’s mine now,” she says. My mother makes a show of winding down the window, holding the stress high above her shoulder, and tossing it out onto the highway. “There, it’s gone.”
I look out at the road, at my stress receding into the background, and wonder at my mother’s love.
You cannot ball up stress like a snowball. You cannot shrug it off like a coat. And you cannot take the stress of another person into your own hands. But I know that if you could, my mother would, in an instant.
This realization overwhelms me, so for the rest of the ride I am quiet. I wonder at this love.