I held Esme’s small, delicate hand in mine as we walked up the front steps of our home. Esme radiated beauty and innocence with her caramel brown hair cascading down her back, soft curls tucked behind her ear, and a serene happiness I could only imagine on the face of an angel.
Of course she remembered what day it was. Esme was a mother in every sense of the word and there wasn’t much that you could get past her when it came to her children. So we, the kids and I, had settled on surprising her with a beautifully decorated house and some thoughtful gifts. Of course we were under strict instructions to spend little and informed repeatedly that there was nothing she needed aside from her family. Women! Always making it difficult to buy gifts for them!
I kissed her wistfully; the simple touch of her lips causing me to ask breathlessly, “Are you ready?”
She smiled shyly at me, which only added to my physical impairment, and responded with a voice that was innocently coated with love and tenderness, “Of course, sweetheart,” she placed a hand lovingly on my chest, “You know that this is extremely sweet for all of you to do…”
I closed my eyes for the faintest of moments, completely enchanted by the honey of her voice and warmed by the love that enveloped us both. Some looked to the sky for answers, others prayed for enlightenment, all I needed in order to know my purpose was to look into her aurous pools and the mysteries of the universe were solved to me. She was the missing piece of my puzzle and there was not a day that went by when my heart didn’t ache for the vision of her. I opened my eyes to smile down at her, my voice heavy with emotion, “You deserve so much more, but today you’ll have to settle for our humble attempts.”
I pushed the door and held it open for Esme, hoping that the kids had enough time to prepare, “After you, darling.”
I watched Esme’s face as she took in the thousands of pure white lilies and white candles that adorned every tabletop and ledge. The milky little bells hung from their delicate green stems and swayed gently in the breeze that accompanied our entrance – all of them seemed to tinkle in respect for their honored guest.
At first, Esme had insisted we not make her the focal point of the day’s celebration. In the end, she finally accepted being the center of attention purely for selfless reasons. The kids wanted to do this for her and she couldn’t disappoint them. Esme was the essence of what it meant to be a mother, and I hoped that I could show her today how very much she meant to all of us.
As I caught the twinkle in her eye, and her face spread into a bashful grin; I felt like I was succeeding in bringing her the joy she bestowed on all of us every single day that we were together, as a family.
Her voice wavered as she beamed at her children, “This is . . . too much…you guys!” Her voice shook with love for their expression.
“Get over here, all of you.” She managed to say in a firmer voice after she cleared her throat. The troupe of children all with triumphant smiles on their faces surrounded Esme and enveloped her in a tight hug.
It was clear that we had succeeded in our mission and regardless of how much she did and all the love she showered us with, it took all but a few minutes to put an eternal smile on her face. It touched me to know that even the simplest gesture meant the world to her; it was one of the many reasons I had been attracted to her, when I had first met her in Columbus.
“Esme. Mom,” Alice said almost shyly, “The Lily of the Valley we chose for the simple fact that it represents purity of heart, sweetness, humility and happiness. You have filled the maternal void in all of our lives with your presence, and we thank you for the light you’ve shone on all of us.”
Edward continued, “You’ve grown us as the sun grows a blossom with your never ending patience, unwavering faith in our goodness, and unconditional love. Just as this world needs the light of the sun, we need your gentle loving and luminous spirit.”
And when I thought she couldn’t blind us any further, Esme smiled wider, and hugged her children again.
I watched from afar as my family expressed and shared their feelings for one another. If there was ever a time I didn’t regret the choices I had made, it was now. How could our loving family be what it was without any one of us? I watched Rosalie, who was characteristically reserved, open up and hug Esme tightly. Her sentiment displayed clearly how much we all needed each other.
Emmett eased the heartfelt and profound words with his joyful suggestion, “Okay, enough mushy stuff powder puffs, let’s get the party started – time to open gifts!”
Slowly, we moved to the dining room where the kids had brought down their gifts.
They sat neatly wrapped and sparkling, because of the shimmering adornments, —which were no doubt Alice’s touch—under the lights of the chandelier. However insignificant the gifts may have been and they were, as no material possession on this entire planet was enough to show Esme what she meant to all of us, the presentation was certainly beautiful.
I had conveyed Esme’s wishes to the children and explained they would have to be creative and do their best to keep the monetary value of their gifts to a minimum. Of course, they had all groaned at the thought of not opening their wallets to find the perfect gift, but in the end, I think they had all enjoyed finding the perfect “cheap” gift for Esme.
Rosalie grabbed her present first and presented it to Esme, “Open mine first!” She smiled and handed Esme at glossy pink rectangular box and added, “It’s from me and well, Jasper in a way, also.”
Esme carefully tore open the gift-wrap and removed a simple black frame that held an eight by ten image of Rosalie. In it she was standing atop a cliff with a glorious view behind her, and her hair was whipping behind her like a golden mast. She was gorgeous in the photograph, of course, and Esme smiled proudly at her daughter, “It’s lovely Rosalie, thank you. I will treasure it.” She then turned to Jasper and smiled knowingly, “You took that picture didn’t you?” He nodded and pecked her on the cheek. “You have a talent Jasper!”
“Well I took a few more, we all know that you could stare at Rosalie all day, but I thought you might appreciate the rest of us lowly beings as well!” he said with a roll of his eyes.
Esme opened the rest of the wrapped photographs, gushing over each one and complementing Jasper’s eye for capturing the beauty of each individual in all the shots he had taken. She especially lingered over the beautiful candid shot of her and I hugging in the backyard. I knew she would be keeping that photograph on her bed stand. Although typically we didn’t take photographs, as evidence of our eternal youth was dangerous, in this instance I had agreed, and Jasper had produced the film in a makeshift dark room in our house. For the time being, the photographs would be kept but eventually we’d have to burn the evidence. It was the thought that counted in this instance.
Alice then shoved her rectangular package into Esme’s hands bouncing excitedly the entire time.
As Esme joyously tore apart the gift-wrap, Alice chattered nervously at super speed, “ I really hope you like it. It was my first time. I think I did a good job. I hope it fits.”
“Alice, I’m sure it’s going to be perfect!” Esme tried to soothe the mirthful girl. I was always amazed at the amount of energy that seemed to be packed into such a tiny frame, even for a vampire.
As soon as Esme removed the soft pale pink sweater from the box she squealed with joy, “Alice, you made this?” She asked incredulously.
Alice simply nodded.
“Oh darling, this is beautiful and it’s so expertly stitched! This is wonderful! Considering how easy it would have been for you to go out and purchase one, this is beyond wonderful! Thank you!” The two women hugged tightly as I looked on and smiled at them.
“Wow, I am truly speechless. This is wonderful kids…”
“Well it’s not over yet. You still have to open mine,” Emmett said as he handed her a small white envelope.
I watched Esme open the envelope and quickly read the small print on six small squares of paper.
“You’re giving me house cleaning and grocery shopping services?” She laughed.
“You don’t like it?” Emmett asked looking slightly hurt by her obvious enjoyment.
She reached across the table in a lightening fast movement and swatted him across the head, “Of course I do! I just think it’ll be entertaining to see you cleaning toilets and pushing a grocery cart full of food that you’ll have to bring home and put away and never eat! Emmett…this is really great! And I appreciate the vacation from those duties!”
That seemed to satisfy Emmett and he grinned widely, ambling over to wrap Esme with his huge arms and lift her right out of the chair she sat in. She patted his back gently and squeezed out the words, “Okay put me down before you break me.”
We all turned to the sound of Edward warming up on his piano, and I leaned in to Esme and whispered, “We’ll have to go over to the piano for Edward’s gift.” She looked up at me and gently pecked my cheek, “Thank you Carlisle.”
We all stood crowded around the piano a step lower than the platform the piano rested on and where Edward had asked Esme to stand leaning against the curve of the black wood.
“This piece was inspired by you Esme, and I hope you love it as much as I loved creating it for you,” was all Edward said as he closed his eyes, bent his head and began playing. The room was filled with soft gentle music that rose and fell more gracefully than the rhythm of the ocean.
I could see Esme was completely transfixed by the melody and awed into silence. We knew Edward was talented, but this was beyond words, and I could tell that Esme was even more affected than the rest of us.
When the final chords resounded, Esme opened her eyes and a peaceful smile graced her lips. She simply went to Edwards’s side and they both held each other momentarily. Words were not necessary between the two. Esme understood his feelings through the music, and Edward could already hear the thoughts that ran through her mind. She kissed him on the top of his head and released him.
I stood back and let the two of them have their moment as they looked into each other’s eyes with the love they both felt in their hearts. Esme quickly hugged Edward again and thanked him.
“Well Mrs. Cullen, you have one more surprise for the evening that consists of just the two of us and it’s getting quite late.” I held out my hand to her and she happily twined her fingers with mine as we headed for the door.
We could hear Emmett from somewhere in the house teasing Edward for being ‘Momma’s boy’. Of course Emmett was right, Edward definitely held a special place in her heart and after that performance how could he not?
Esme seemed to be in another world, as she didn’t ask what I had planned or even protest that there was more. At the doorway she turned and said to the now empty foyer, “Thank you kids! Now be good while we’re gone!”
Hand in hand we ran towards the car like a couple of teenagers, Esme’s giggles causing infectious laughter of my own. Feeling young and bold, I captured her by the side of the car and pressed my lips firmly to hers. We broke apart still smiling and laughing and I opened the door for her before I was sidetracked from my plans for the evening.
As soon as I settled in behind the wheel, she turned to me and gave me her best seductive Cheshire grin, the one that usually got whatever answer she was looking for, “So, Mr. Cullen, what is on the agenda for the evening?”
“You’ll know soon enough. In the meantime, just sit back and relax.”
A comfortable silence filled the air for the thirty-minute drive as we made our way through Forks and into Port Angeles where I had a sailboat docked and ready for our midnight sail.
I hadn’t noticed the distant look in Esme’s eyes as I drove and was surprised to see that she didn’t seem as cheerful as she was when we got into the car. I assumed she was just quiet because she was overwhelmed and was simply reflecting on the evening’s events.
Of course, earlier, when I mentioned doing something special for her today, I realized the reason for her somber response to the celebration and I was hoping that this year we could show her that she was every bit a mother as she was when she first became one sixty-five years ago. I believed we had succeeded in showing her that this was a day to celebrate, but perhaps I was foolish in thinking her mind wouldn’t eventually drift back to the birth of her son.
I grabbed her hand and towed her gently towards the dock. I was prepared to be a shoulder she could lean on and bear the burden of the heavy weight of guilt and pain I knew she almost always carried with her.
We boarded the sailboat and drifted out into the bay. Esme found a spot near the bow and was looking out at the dark inky water lost in her own thoughts as I guided the vessel out into the open bay. Once I felt we had floated out far enough, I dropped the anchor, and I sat down next to Esme draping my arm around her slender shoulders and squeezing her to my side.
She stood suddenly and spoke out to the water, “How can I even celebrate this day, Carlisle?” She whispered softly her voice cracking.
I came up behind her and wrapped my arms around her shoulders squeezing her to me gently, “Darling, you are the very essence of what it means to be a mother. You give everything of yourself to others, you love unconditionally, and you fight like a lioness to protect the ones you love. Esme,” I whispered worshipping every syllable of her name, “Mother’s Day would be pointless if it wasn’t to celebrate the awe and wonder of a woman such as yourself.”
She turned in my arms and with grieving eyes spoke of the pain that haunted every moment of her existence, “I let him die. I was his mother, and I failed him,” Her head dropped and without seeing, I knew the sorrow and anguish behind her eyes. I knew her heart and her soul, and it was from the inner depths of her being that this hurt burned. I held her closer to me, and I silently tried to convey the love and respect I had for her as my wife. If the feelings I had for her could only course between the connections of our bodies, I would heal her broken heart.
We stood clinging to each other for what seemed like hours, and I pulled away only to raise her chin up with my finger and look deeply into her golden eyes, “Esme, you know what I think? I think you didn’t fail him at all. I believe that the very few and precious hours that you had each other was all he needed. Your son, given to you as a gift from God, as you were for him, received all the love he could contain in his tiny heart. Your heart is as pure as a mountain stream and your love as concentrated and potent as God himself. If we each have a purpose on this earth, his was to be loved by you. And he was. So you see you never failed him. You gave him what he came for and then it was his time go.”
I knew my words could never be enough, but maybe they were enough for now as we held each other under the moonlight that illuminated the dark way in our bittersweet moment.
“I love you Carlisle Cullen,” She whispered against my lips. This, us, together here, was enough.