When it's a good day, the universe gives you a story. A story that you need to live better. "Eleven" by Sandra Cisneros was that gift about fifteen years ago during some teacher training. The story was used in a procedure for teaching story elements and it was a helpful exercise that I've used many times. I still remembering hoping to avoid becoming Mrs. Price, the cranky-pants teacher in the story whose thoughtless comments ruined a child"s day. That wasn't, however, the theme that came to me as I approach this Mothers’ Day.
In the story the character is having a birthday and she says, "What they don't understand about birthdays and what they never tell you is that when you're eleven, you're also ten, and nine, and eight..." She compares the years of one's life to the rings of a tree. It's a helpful image as I relate to my mother. It's easy to think of the aging people in our lives and just view them as they are now, forgetting that inside they are all of the ages they have ever been. We celebrate those years sometimes after our loved ones die, but probably not often enough while they are still with us.
My mother, 89, is a woman of wisdom and strength. She has to stop to catch her breath more often these days when we walk. She often tells me the same thing two or three times in one conversation and I frequently have to finish her sentences or give her a name she is trying to retrieve. She can still walk a 5K, read about 70 books a year, make a mean casserole, and keep an active social schedule. In spite of her vitality, I often think of her as an almost 90 year old instead of the woman who is still 10, 18, 28, 45, and 60. It helps though that she has shared life stories and that I have my own memory bank of her earlier days. Just recently she shared with me about her first teaching position. "I made $1800 for the year. Can you believe that?"
The Tree of Mom. Inside the strong, slight exterior of this lovely woman are the rings of experiences watered by grace. The 18 year old who was first in her family to go to college, the teacher in a one room schoolhouse, the young bride, the tired mother of three, middle school teacher, spiritual director, ordained minister, and voracious reader. The woman who could shake one mighty finger at my sassy 14-year-old self and bring me back to my senses. The woman who has the most beautiful singing voice I have ever heard. The woman with magical dreams and strong bones. I often rest in the shade of this mighty woman and when God is with me, I pay attention. I listen more, slow down to walk beside her, and see the rings of life which sustain my own.
Happy Mothers' Day!