When I was in the 4th grade our teacher offered incentives for reading and writing. Students who reached certain milestones were allowed to pick out a small ceramic object from the arts and crafts cabinet and paint it during class.
As and avid reader and writer I earned several, but it was a ceramic teddy bear that I had my eye on and I was beyond thrilled the day I was able to paint it and take it home. I couldn’t wait to show my mother. I was proud of my prize and even prouder of my paint job – an adorable, brown teddy bear with a green neck scarf and blue eyes, holding a heart. I worked really hard to make sure it was just right.
I rushed off the school bus that evening with the ceramic teddy bear in hand. I was so desperate to show my mother that as I sprinted up the steps to the house I tripped and fell, dropping the teddy bear. It smashed into dozens of pieces, as did my heart. I wept loudly as my mother rushed out to see what had happened. I showed her my broken prize, now just a mess of shards. I was devastated.
“Don’t worry,” my mother comforted me. “I can glue this back together.”
With that she gathered all the pieces and ushered me inside for a snack to soothe my angst.
That day she glued that whole thing back together, just like she said she would. It had cracks and chips but was good enough to make me feel proud once again.
And that’s what mothers do. We comfort, we soothe, and we put things back together. We are glue. We create bonds to repair the damage done by forces we can’t control. When our children hurt their pain sticks to us and we carry it as if it were our own.
We couch bad news, fix scrapes, hug away anger. We pick up the broken pieces of our children’s problems probably more often than we should and we painstakingly glue them back together. Our patch-up jobs may have cracks and fissures and chips, but they are completed with love and complete devotion.
I don’t remember if I thanked my mother. I probably didn’t. Now that I’m a mother the gravity of what she did that day strikes me in a way it could not have at nine years old. I’m quite sure she would have rather been doing anything else than hunching over piece of cheap ceramic, fitting the pieces back together until her eyes went blurry and her fingers went numb. I know that that is last thing I’d want to be doing any day of the week.
Yet, she did it. She did it because she’s my mother, and her heart could not be whole until mine was. So she labored, thanklessly. That’s what we mothers do.
Recently my mother lost her own mother. This is sad but this is also the destination of every one of us…if we are lucky. Parents are not meant to outlive their children and it is a privilege to be able to exit this world before them. However, we still miss who our parents are to us, who they were and how they sacrificed. As my mother grieves for her own mother, I would just like to use the space afforded to me in this column to say this:
Thank you, Mom. Thank you for all the days you hunched over impossible tasks just to soothe my broken spirit.
And to all the mothers out there who put things back together on a regular basis…Happy Mother’s Day.