Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Invisible Mom

*I get the following email from time to time, but it never really touched me as much as it did today.*

It all began to make sense, the blank stares, the lack of response, the way one of the kids will walk into the room while I'm on the phone and ask to be taken to the store.

Inside I'm thinking, 'Can't you see I'm on the phone?' Obviously, not. No one can see if I'm on the phone, or cooking, or sweeping the floor, or even standing on my head in the corner, because no one can see me at all.

I'm invisible. The invisible Mom. Some days I am only a pair of hands, nothing more: Can you fix this? Can you tie this? Can you open this?

Some days I'm not a pair of hands; I'm not even a human being. I'm a clock to ask, 'What time is it?' I'm a satellite guide to answer, 'What number is the Disney Channel?' I'm a car to order, 'Right around 5:30, please.'
I was certain that these were the hands that once held books and the eyes that studied history and the mind that graduated sum a cum laude - but now they had disappeared into the peanut butter, never to be seen
again. She's going; she's going; she is gone!

One night, a group of us were having dinner, celebrating the return of a friend from England . Janice had just gotten back from a fabulous trip, and she was going on and on about the hotel she stayed in. I was sitting there, looking around at the others all put together so well. It was hard not to compare and feel sorry for myself. I was feeling pretty pathetic, when Janice turned to me with a beautifully wrapped package, and said, 'I brought you this.' It was a book on the great cathedrals of Europe .

I wasn't exactly sure why she'd given it to me until I read her inscription: 'To Charlotte , with admiration for the greatness of what you are building when no one sees.'

In the days ahead I would read - no, devour - the book. And I would discover what would become for me, four life-changing truths, after which I could pattern my work:

No one can say who built the great cathedrals - we have no record of their names.

These builders gave their whole lives for a work they would never see finished.

They made great sacrifices and expected no credit.

The passion of their building was fueled by their faith that the eyes of God saw everything.

A legendary story in the book told of a rich man who came to visit the cathedral while it was being built, and he saw a workman carving a tiny bird on the inside of a beam. He was puzzled and asked the man, 'Why are you spending so much time carving that bird into a beam that will be covered by the roof? No one will ever see it.' And the workman replied, 'Because God sees.'
I closed the book, feeling the missing piece fall into place.

It was almost as if I heard God whispering to me, 'I see you, Charlotte. I see the sacrifices you make every day, even when no one around you does. No act of kindness you've done, no sequin you've sewn on, no cupcake you've baked, is too small for me to notice and smile over. You are building a great cathedral, but you can't see right now what it will become.'

At times, my invisibility feels like an affliction. But it is not a disease that is erasing my life.

It is the cure for the disease of my own self-centeredness. It is the antidote to my strong, stubborn pride.

I keep the right perspective when I see myself as a great builder. As one of the people who show up at a job that they will never see finished, to work on something that their name will never be on.

The writer of the book went so far as to say that no cathedrals could ever be built in our lifetime because there are so few people willing to sacrifice to that degree.

When I really think about it, I don't want my son to tell the friend he's bringing home from college for Thanksgiving, 'My Mom gets up at 4 in the morning and bakes homemade pies, and then she hand bastes a turkey for three hours and presses all the linens for the table.' That would mean I'd built a shrine or a monument to myself. I just want him to want to come home. And then, if there is anything more to say to his friend, to add, 'you're going to love it there.'

As mothers, we are building great cathedrals. We cannot be seen if we're doing it right.

And one day, it is very possible that the world will marvel, not only at what we have built, but at the beauty that has been added to the world by the sacrifices of invisible women.

Great Job, MOM!

Brendan is going through a "Momma" phase, and he kicked it into high gear today. I took him to weekly playgroup this morning and practically wore him as an extra pant leg the entire time. He was stuck to my side for 2.5 hours. Well actually, that's a lie. I did manage to make a potty run without him, but even then, I could hear his voice echo down the hallway..."Momma? Momma? MOMMA!"

We came home, I put a video on, and ordered him to sit on the couch for approximately 30 minutes so that I could unwind from the playgroup "Momma!" drama. Why is he suddenly like this? It used to be that I could set him on the floor and let him loose while I sat, sipped coffee, and gossiped. Humph! It was all I could do today just to drink my coffee without batting his hand away while snapping "No! HOT! Mommy's juice! MOMMY'S JUICE I SAY!"

So as I said, I was beyond frustrated until I sat down and read this email. It hit me like a slap across the face. One day, not so many years from now, I'll wish he was kneeling at my feet with his arms stretched up, waiting for me to hold him. I'll wish he was the happiest kid alive just to have my undivided attention for 15 minutes. I'll wish we were hanging out in the family room, playing with all of his "caws" until bedtime. I'll wish his heart was breaking as I disappear for a quick potty break.

One day, I'll wish for all of this. I'll wish that I wasn't so invisible.

Bring on some more of this "Momma!" phase.

I get the point.


John said...

Amen, girl. They grow up so fast, and it's all you can to to treasure all the parts of that. Sometimes it's easy to lose perspective, when I'm fighting someone to do his homework, or arguing about why he can't stay out later...but I'd rather be doing that than not.

Kelli said...

You've got it, girlfriend. I remember those "mamma" days, and once in awhile I still get one.....but she is definately an independant girl (just as I had hoped) but it makes me tear up when I think of the old days. I still strive to keep us all really close. And it does take work, but it's good work.

Weldon and Julie said...

It's so true! I love those thoughts. I actually felt invisible this morning after I had been up since 4:30 with Jade, and my husband said, "so, are you making me an egg sandwich or..." I do need to remember it's all for a cause bigger than myself.