Happy Mothering Day to ALL you women out there! In England Mother’s Day doesn’t exist, instead they have “Mothering Sunday.” A Sunday where people honor and acknowledge all the women in their lives who have mothered them, all the women who help them mother others. It’s just a small difference in syntax, but I think it’s such a better way to celebrate.
I have had so many thoughts swirl through my mind today as I’ve been pampered by my family and as I’ve thought about all who have mothered me and helped me mother my children. I wish I could write them all down, but that will have to wait since it’s late and I need to sleep.
I wanted to post a quick picture on Instagram of my own incredible mother, as a tribute so I started looking through old family pictures…and now, an hour later, here I am at the computer, a mess of emotions, full of love and gratitude for this, most amazing woman and the fact that I get to call her mother.
Photos are magical. The shutter freezes one tiny little moment in time, strips away all the clutter of the present and preserves a glorious part of our story. As I went through these photos I found myself in awe of what my mother did. It’s easy as a child, even an adult child, to not really see your mom for who she is outside of you. But sitting here tonight, looking through my childhood, I cracked open a whole new appreciation for mothering and the importance my mother gave to it. She threw her whole heart into the game….and has never taken it out.
It makes me want to pinch that little me girl in the photos, holler to her, don’t you get it? Don’t you get how much of her life she is giving? How her bones ache at the end of the night? And her heart? But that’s the nature of mothering. It is selfless. It is mostly unacknowledged by its recipients. It is paid in slobbery kisses (and lanyards – see poem below). The work is back and heart breaking, but the harvest is miraculous. Mothers build lives.
I love this quote, it’s one of my mom’s favorites:
Every mother is like Moses. She does not enter the promised land. She prepares a world she will not see. - Pope Paul VI
And this talk about cathedrals, and the invisible woman.
We don’t do this work for the same reasons we do other things in life. It is motivated by love. And love is good at delayed gratification. My mom has perfected that kind of love. I’m working on it.
So quick, before it gets too late I’m going to zoom through these photos, let them tell the story and just write a bit about some of the things I love about this astounding woman and reflect a little on how these little frozen moments are what the real magic of motherhood is made of.
I love this shot of my mother with me on my first birthday. I can’t help but think if that was me my face wouldn’t look quite so calm. I think I'd be giving that big brother of mine the stink eye for climbing on the table and trying to blow out the candle. My mom has always been amazing at being the eye of the storm.
And again, here. How in the world did my mom sit through so much practicing with so many children? I’m sure she didn’t always have this smile on her face….I know I was a snotty practicer just like my kids are….but I’m so thankful she stuck it out with me. She gave me an incredible love for music and it’s trickling through me to my kids and I’m so so thankful for that.
This is exactly how it looks when I brush Emmeline’s hair. (except I don’t wear such cool pants)I like seeing all the details in this picture. The left over stuff from a birthday dinner, the clutter in the background. The charts (?) taped onto the wall behind us. That adorable home made birthday cake. And I think I’m blowing a snot bubble. I know how much work that is for the mom, to put together all those Easter outfits, to do that hair, to get myself looking presentable (love the pink dress mom!) to fill those baskets. And I love my grandma peering through the door. I wish I could see a video of this Easter morning. Something in my mom’s face in this picture tells me that she wasn’t feeling totally at peace. Maybe I’m projecting my own holiday morning mothering onto her, but that face looks like how I feel most Sunday mornings. It’s a “I'm making it through this face.”
Here she is with baby me. I wonder if it was easier for her to be in the present more than I am. No smart phones, no pinterest, no instagram. I’m sure there were other ways moms compared themselves and got distracted, I’m sure lots of moms felt disconnected with no facebook to fill some void. But it also seems that there weren’t quite as many distractions. Not quite as much comparing. Just making it through each day the best she knew how.
This one might be one of my favorites. Saren’s birthday party. I love how calm my mom is back there urging those girls to raise their hands. Those little girls, not aware in the slightest of the work it took to get that spread of things all lined up on the table or the herculean effort it must have taken to get so many kids there, happy, fed. My sister Saren is there just waving, like, “no big deal.” Oh, we don’t know what our moms do for us until it’s only frozen in photos. And this one? It’s my mom and dad in London. My mom was 31 and a mission president’s wife. For three years living in London, away from family, started with 4 kids, went home with 6, managed to mother her own as well as all those hundreds of missionaries and my dad. She is a wonder. And a beauty.
And here she is after the birth of her sixth child. She looks exhausted, but content. Ready to rally again and learn to live expanded. Here we are in Mexico. She and my dad took us all to live in this tiny town in central Mexico for a summer. We ran around with the street kids and tried to learn Spanish and ate lots of quesadillas. That was the summer my mom helped me to memorize my times tables, among a few other things she had going on. What a spirit of adventure. Again, another favorite. Not sure where these guys are, but love those wind blown faces. That mother in the middle of it all. Mothering.
I think this might be a baby doll? Who is this? Hopefully one of my siblings can tell me….don’t think my mom ever had a baby with that kind of hair. I’m thinking this might be a picture of my mom practicing mothering before she ever mothered a child of her own. She was born to mother. When I was in jr high my mom decided she didn’t have enough people to mother and that we didn’t have enough grandparents around so she adopted this Mr. Boyle. An old widower who she took us to visit every week. Her heart is as big as an ocean. She always wanted ten, but here she is, content with her 9th and last.
I wish I could take those kids up there aside and give them a little talking to. Help them to understand in the moment their mother’s heart and the miraculous work it is doing. And I wish I could somehow spell that out to my kids in a way they’d get. A way that would make them stop and wonder at the work my heart and body and brain are doing each day. But that’s not the way it’s set up. We don’t appreciate what our mother’s do for us until they are through the war and basking in results. Until we are doing all the same things for our own children. It’s really delayed gratification at it’s finest.
For some reason it’s so comforting for me to see my mom frozen in time, doing these mothering tasks that feel so never ending to me. All of them stacked up together to create my childhood. All these little moments of hair brushing and hustling and birthday parties and holidays and cooking dinner and practicing and new babies. Surely they felt like an eternity to live through them as the mom….but to me they are my childhood.
Childhood is a beautiful gift composed of lots of monotonous days and hard mothering work. It is powerful to look through these shutter click moments and see them all squish together into a such a glistening whole. It gives me hope that the same magic is at work around here, even though most of the time it feels so far from anything magical.
Last, I’ve got to leave with my favorite mother’s day poem. I think I've posted it every mother’s day, but to me this powerful and hilarious thought never gets old.
The other day I was ricocheting slowly
off the blue walls of this room,
moving as if underwater from typewriter to piano,
from bookshelf to an envelope lying on the floor,
when I found myself in the L section of the dictionary
where my eyes fell upon the word lanyard.
No cookie nibbled by a French novelist
could send one into the past more suddenly—
a past where I sat at a workbench at a camp
by a deep Adirondack lake
learning how to braid long thin plastic strips
into a lanyard, a gift for my mother.
I had never seen anyone use a lanyard
or wear one, if that's what you did with them,
but that did not keep me from crossing
strand over strand again and again
until I had made a boxy
red and white lanyard for my mother.
She gave me life and milk from her breasts,
and I gave her a lanyard.
She nursed me in many a sick room,
lifted spoons of medicine to my lips,
laid cold face-cloths on my forehead,
and then led me out into the airy light
and taught me to walk and swim,
and I , in turn, presented her with a lanyard.
Here are thousands of meals, she said,
and here is clothing and a good education.
And here is your lanyard, I replied,
which I made with a little help from a counselor.
Here is a breathing body and a beating heart,
strong legs, bones and teeth,
and two clear eyes to read the world, she whispered,
and here, I said, is the lanyard I made at camp.
And here, I wish to say to her now,
is a smaller gift—not the worn truth
that you can never repay your mother,
but the rueful admission that when she took
the two-tone lanyard from my hand,
I was as sure as a boy could be
that this useless, worthless thing I wove
out of boredom would be enough to make us even.
Mom, thanks eternally for the breathing body, the beating heart and for giving me eyes to read the world. And for building my childhood through all those little everyday not so fun tasks. You taught me the immense value and joy of mothering others.
I know I can never repay you, the thought is laughable. But I hope you know that with every passing day as a mother I realize more and more what a gift your hard mothering work is in my life.