You would have loved my mom. She was diligent and dutiful, industrious and ingenious, fashionable and fastidious, a loyal friend and devoted spouse.
If there were room-moms back then, she would’ve been a great one. If there were sports-Mom awards given, she would have been well-decorated. She cooked a mean pot roast, prepared an awesome peach pie and baked chocolate chip cookies like nobody’s business.
Nowadays, there are only a few folks who remember Mom because she left us in 1982. That was eight years before I became a mom, which may help explain how completely delighted but totally unprepared I was to be a mom. Diapers? Never done ’em. Naptime? Oh, they take ’em? Cribs? Bibs? Baths? High chairs? Pacifiers or thumbs? Nursing or bottles? Baby talk or big kid words? So many questions! It was a brave new world out there for me.
Books, of course I read them, but Dr. Spock along with What to Expect When You’re Expecting can only do so much. Nothing really prepares you for the unexpected, and those bundles of joy are the complete un-package. They foil you at every turn, then delight you at every opportunity. They have you totally wracking your brain (after you realize this is NOWHERE in any of the books) and completely surprise you when they solve it their own way. Somehow, they survive babyhood and so do you. This is nothing short of miraculous, really, given a mom’s resources and the magnitude of the task.
So, as we come upon Mother’s Day and I give thanks for my mom, I am particularly aware of so many other “moms” in my life who have lent their wisdom and kindness and a heaping dose of patience. I am thankful…
- For a step mom, ever at the ready, who was devoted to my dad and my kids
- For an aunt who called, cared, listened and even read chapters of my novel
- For a neighboring mom who invited me to the first church that got under my skin
- For my mom’s dearest friend, to whom my mom is still an ever-present companion
- For my friends who beautifully model what motherhood looks like and should be
This last makes me think of Mary Anne, a special friend, the wife of a pastor and mother to three boys, who now has a gaggle of grandchildren. Recently she was diagnosed with advanced lung cancer. When she messaged me the news I was struck with complete disbelief. This vital woman, so engaged with her family, so alive in the church and so full of life…how could she have received this devastating news?
From a thousand miles away, there was nothing I could do or say, so I did what I do: I rode my bike as fast and as far as I could. All along the way I asked, Why, God? Why this woman? Why now? When she has given her whole life to her family, her friends, her husband, her church? Why this Mom?
That’s when God drew my attention to the tree in the distance. It stood all alone, branches bare of leaves, with limbs reaching proudly upward and outward. Without foliage, it reminded me of the future I saw for my friend, when she would lose her hair thanks to chemo and much of her body weight under the stress of illness.
I climbed off my bike, stood and stared. Looking at this tree, I God-imagined a nest in every branch. Each one securing its babies, some peeking out and cheeping to be fed, others wobbling to the edge to risk taking flight. How many young had this woman fledged? Not only her sons with their wives and young children, but dear friends she had walked beside: Bible study companions, congregation members, nearby neighbors and all of their children. I was certain that this woman had been mom to a vast array of children, including me, and including my children. She was the nesting tree. No illness would ever take that away.
This Mother’s Day, while I give thanks to God for my mom, I am especially grateful for the moms I know who labor in the nests of their lives with vigor, fortitude and creative aplomb. I smile to think of the moms my girls may someday be, praising God for the gift of Mary Anne and the many others who have taken me under-wing.
It’s what a mother does. It’s what we’re meant to do.
I chose church over soccer this Sunday, and the show went on without me. Apparently, it was quite a physical affair, the Reston team persevering in the end by a 4-1 final score. My daughter Olivia scored one of the goals, so she says, and assisted on two of the others. But what she’s most proud of is defending the honor (and bodies) of her teammates. one in particular, whose playing style can be a bit annoying to the other team, I am sure. Apparently, annoyance turned physical and led to cautions and ejections.
My child sees her self as the “enforcer.” Really she is the defender. Any underdog, any where, is a cause for her concern. On this day that played out on the soccer field.
But I didn’t see it. What I saw instead was one droopy, white Mother’s Day flower which walked in with my sweaty but pleased daughter. The flower is a tradition with the Bobcats. Hand it to their big-hearted coach who makes sure the mother’s are recognized on their special day – which is always a travel team’s soccer day because it falls on a Sunday mid-May. He arrives with a dozen and a half and the players distribute them to their moms in the stands before play begins.
Of course, I wasn’t in the stands. I was in the pews. So my flower waited to greet me some hours later, droopy but not yet dead. My daughter and I both laughed as I got out the vase and stuffed it in, hoping the neck would be support enough for its fragile stem. But no, it drooped sadly.
Have no fear, Olivia to the rescue. Toothpicks, tape, twist-ties and a bit of ingenuity later, she has the stem stabilized and the droop managed. She learned this, she says, from her paternal grandfather who was a renowned Bonsai expert.
Next day, wouldn’t you know, the little lady is standing up almost straight. There, stabilized by a splint, wrapped with twist-ties, my flower beams happy Mother’s Day to me. And I beam back. It looks so like the newly repaired knees of the young women athletes I dearly love to train. Fragile to look at but so strong on the inside. A bit of special attention and they spring back to life.
This morning, my Mother’s Day flower greets me with yet another expression. Its pedals spread wide, so pleased to be beautiful, it is hugging me hello. Or maybe thank you. But probably, “Look out world, here I come!”
Never underestimate a rose. Or a child with a mind and heart to rescue.