15 May The Broken Beautiful of Motherhood
So here is the thing about us moms. Aren’t we all just trying to make the broken things a bit more beautiful? My dear friend wrote a sprawling, honest manifesto last year on motherhood. One of my favorites.
“Filling someone’s heart and loving another as they journey through life is an available blessing no matter your circumstances. It’s an honor to influence – AND REGARDLESS – you can celebrate the power you have as a woman to serve, encourage, protect, provide, love, and GIVE LIFE beyond your ability or opportunity to birth. This isn’t a plea to rejoice in your loss, rather a moment to acknowledge your worth and scope of influence as a woman that can choose to beautifully Mother at all the messy junctures of life.”
And so on the day after this mother’s day, I want to tell you a story of broken beautiful, of making a home, of teaching gratitude, contentment, and servanthood at a messy juncture in life. This so happens to be my Mother, the woman who taught me-who teaches me still-how to be a woman myself.
This is my favorite childhood memory.
I was maybe seven when we made aprons for Christmas. Or eight. You’d have to ask her.
Mom gathered us around our table, a solid oak slab we learned on, ate on, sat around and still anchors our family thirteen grandchildren later. She leaned low and shared the plan. Four of us, four aprons. Four kitchen towels, four appliques to cut out and stitch on, four rectangles to cut and sew. We would surprise each other with the design of our appliques, but the patterns would match. I was thrilling from head to toe. This had all the trappings of my favorite things. Sewing? Check. Baking, of course! Surprises? Check. Matching with my mama? Double yes!!
That December settles in my memories with a glow, with nostalgia staining backward, infusing the moments. The details are hazy now, by virtue of time, but there are seconds that spring out from the haze, thrumming with the emotions that sharpen the edges.
Hearing my mother explain the plan. Seeing a red gingerbread take shape. Hastily tucking away the project when my sisters came near. Running my hands over the red tinsel snaking the banister, thinking that surely it was the most beautiful thing I’d seen in a wee seven years.
We spent the month sewing and baking, as we did all the time. The anticipation nearly drowned me, the little girl who couldn’t wait for anything. Much to my horror, my mother sat us down and explained we would receive our presents on Epiphany, January 6, the day the Magi arrived to honor the Newborn king with gifts of their own. I was indignant as only a small child can be. But my mother remained firm in the face of my outrage, and true to her word, on January 6th, four tissue wrapped packages lay neatly to the right of each of our plates. One for momma, and one for each girl.
Let me back up. On Christmas morning, I did receive one present, from my best friend, also an apron. A resplendent yellow garment with eyelets, ruffles, and my name embroidered across the front in blue. Obviously, I was bursting with pride, and couldn’t wait to tell my friends of my Christmas bounty.
Christmas happened to be on a Sunday, so I didn’t have to wait long. Strangely, though, they did not appreciate my sheer good fortune, and were stuck on the knowledge that I had only one present on Christmas Day, and an apron at that. I explained the Epiphany (grudgingly) and assured them that another gift was coming. ANOTHER APRON, in fact. Oh the glory of it all. I don’t remember their response to that, but I do remember bewilderment. Why couldn’t they understand how I excited was? I mean, hello! I wandered away confused, my enthusiasm slightly dimmed.
So now, January 6, the occasion of the Magi and our gift exchange. We tore at the packages, exclaimed over the designs, eagerly put them on, and went to work in the kitchen. It. Was. Glorious.
But did you notice? Dollar store dish towel aprons were the only gifts we received that year, except for me. I got two aprons. Two aprons were the sum total of gifts, and I got double what my sisters got! It wasn’t until college that we discovered the truth. And in knowing the truth, understanding the lukewarm reactions of my playmates.
See, my parents couldn’t afford presents for us that year. There were some lean years in my childhood, happy ones, but lean. And so, in desperation, she hatched a plan. And the reason we had to wait until Epiphany to give our treasures to one another? We weren’t finished with them in time for Christmas. But rather than noticing what we didn’t have, we were so enthralled in the gifts inherent in what we did receive. Servanthood modeled, creativity, thoughtfulness, and time spent together. Plus aprons. Duh.
See, my mother took $10 worth of material and crafted it into the Christmas I remember and cherish the most. She took the brokenness of our circumstance and sewed together something beautiful, something worth far more than our world can ever envision. She made aprons equal to frankincense and myrrh in the currency of my body and soul.
My father used to say that if we turned out to be half the woman my mother is, he’d consider us lucky. I couldn’t agree more. Thank you, mama.
And friends? Take the broken bits of motherhood you may long for, or already have, take them and build something beautiful. Love well at all the messy junctures of life.