If my mother was told the yard rake would have helped, she would have used it. Instead, she pushed the brush’s teeth into my thick tangled knots and raked. In and out, stops and starts, the hairy tangles meeting stubborn teeth of the brush’s end. I hated my hair being brushed and chose never to do it. But like most mothers, our choices affected her; and, like all great mothers, she took them in stride.
My scalp was on fire, my mood hotter for it. The braids came next and my eyes would bulge as she pulled, the chipped nail on her pointer finger catching a hair here and a hair there. One braid done, she’d walk to the stove and flip a pancake while I waited, head throbbing, for the second half of my unruly mane to be braided.
This is my mother. Like most, she is a multi-tasking queen, a sidetracked, brain-filled, dedicated creature with a big focus – love well and love deeply. This often showed in piles of laundry on the couch unfolded for days, socks that never met their mates and dirty dishes that talked back screaming to be cleaned. She ignored the chores because those things mattered little in comparison to the larger picture taking shape – us. We were schooled by her until The Price is Right came on at eleven. Loved with homemade lunches and living room picnics. She gave us her all until 1 p.m. Then it was time to shift.
Her mother hat only slightly tilted to the side, she’d make her way to the backyard music studio. A tag team duo, our parents worked hard to keep the household afloat – my mom worked afternoons in the music studio and my dad worked nights in an I.T. department for a company a few cities over.
She could hear us by rigged intercom system made by my dad from studio to house. She could see us in the backyard from the windows of her perch. She listened to the music of an upright piano and the vocal chords of sixty students or more throughout the week. But ultimately, she listened to the Holy Spirit through it all.
We learned from her to put jelly beans on as lipstick, make pizzas in the shape of geography maps, climb trees, have a deep appreciation for music, share with others, speak kindly, hide in cupboards and linen closets for hide-and-go-seek, adventure on field trips galore, say our prayers, wash at least on Saturdays. But above all, to give all the thanks to God – for the shared Happy Meal, the big holiday meals, and a daddy who worked nights.
It wasn’t until I was much older did I realize her exhaustion and that she has feelings too. She is a mom after all, but we forget these details. Our mom was up before us, in bed after us. She was the constant. She still often is.
Today, on the day we observe mothers, I am thankful for mine. It isn’t perfection that makes a good mother, it is dedication. She might have buried the cordless phone in the garden by accident and we might have caught things on fire, caused her to gain weight, gave her wrinkles and gray hairs, and kept her from sleep since 1981. But in all the tangles, the burnt pancakes now flipped, I am thankful for a mother who created space for us to grow, to mess up, and to be loved. And above all, has done her best to point us to God who loves us even more.
Happy Mother’s Day, mom. You will always be my mommy. I love you.