*March 12th will mark the one year anniversary of my Mom's death. In an effort to avoid my usual "milestone approaching" behavior of hiding in bed and eating lots of carbs, I'm celebrating the 12 Days of Mom. As a part of my celebration, I will be writing one of my favorite memories about Mom here each day. These are random tidbits of all the awesome that was my Mom. I'll think you'll like reading more about her. If you're new to reading my blog, proceed with caution. You will find lots of casual writing fraught with grammatical errors. I serve as editor-in-chief around here, which would make any of my high school English teachers shudder.
I came out of the womb with my ever constant companion, fear. Well-I'm possibly exaggerating. It seems infants are blissfully unaware of exactly how fragile their lives are. So, let's just say, from my earliest, foggiest memories, fear was there with me. I don't know where or how I learned to be fearful. It really does seem it was just a part of my DNA. You know, furrowed brow and all that.
As a child, I was PAINFULLY shy. I refused to look adults in the face. I might glance at you if you were a mom. If you were a dad, I'd probably leave the room. I really did not discriminate in my shyness-long time friends, family, it didn't really matter. I can remember the feeling I would have in my stomach when I knew I was going to be seeing someone new. And, if I get super real, I still get that feeling in most social situations. Thus explaining all the awkward...
Mom walked an amazing line between understanding who I was and pushing me beyond my comfort zone. Looking back, I can't imagine how she did it. It is a line I try to walk in my parenting. For her it seemed so effortless and delicate. For me it feels bumbling and heavy.
One of my "pushing" memories of Mom involved a birthday present and a long walk. I was probably in kindergarten or first grade. One of my very best friends was a boy up the street and I had been waiting weeks for his birthday party. On the day of his party, his mother called mine letting her know that my friend had broken out in chicken pox. No party. Did I mention I wasn't exactly a flexible child? Um, and maybe a tad dramatic? I was so sad. I would wager that I made a grand and sweeping statement about the injustice of childhood diseases. What Mom did next was a stroke of parenting genius.
She handed me the present, told me to put on my jacket, and to walk the present up to my friend's house. (I would like to point out that at this particular time in my life I wore a rabbit skin coat that I truly believed was magnificent. Don't hate. You know you sported some scary stuff in the '80s your own self!) Based on the feeling that came over me, you would have believed that Mom was sending me off to walk into the mouth of a hungry lion. I was terrified. I was going to have to walk through the woods by myself? And knock on the door by myself? And probably talk to a GROWN-UP by myself?? Mom held my hand and reminded me of the very first Bible verse she ever taught me: "When I am afraid, I will trust in Thee." Psalm 56:3. (Please note we were Baptist and all of my childhood verses are etched on my heart in the good ol' King James Version) Y'all-I quoted that verse all the way through the woods, across the cul-de-sac, up the front yard and to the door. I knocked. I rang the doorbell. No one came. Some kids, at this point, would have knocked louder or pressed the doorbell multiple times in a row. Not me. I burst into tears. And ran back down the hill as fast as I could.
I did not want to admit "defeat" to Mom. So, I sat down by a large brush pile in the backyard and berated myself for being such a baby. But, of course, she was there, watching. She came out to meet me by the brush pile and asked me what happened. We talked it through and she told me I needed to try again. I was outraged. Why would she make me do this again? Meanest.mom.ever. She promised me it was important. The only way to stop being afraid was just to do the things that were scary. She also taught me a trick about listening for the doorbell once you press the button. If you hear it, you don't need to press it again. This is a trick I use to this day! She was a perfect blend of philosophical inspiration and practical advice.
I soldiered back up the hill and I delivered that gift. (Feel free to cheer...)
And the next years of my life looked very much the same. Mom could've easily taken me up the hill. She could've easily applauded me for trying and failing and taken me in for cookies and milk (Because we Hamilton girls do like to soothe a wound with some sugar!) But she didn't that day, and she didn't rescue me many, many times after that. I know it was hard for her. Mom had one of the most tender hearts on the planet. I know her well enough to know that she probably really wanted to rescue me all those times. But she knew better, and she didn't.
Of all the gifts Mom gave me, this might be the most important one. Because as time went on, and life got real, I bumped into things (fine, slammed into things) that she couldn't rescue me from. How wonderful that I already had a hunch what to do. Cling to my God, trust in Him, and just keeping trying.
In her last weeks, we would quote this verse to each other. Here we were again, face to face with fear. Something she couldn't rescue me from, and something I couldn't rescue her from. (Damn it... Sorry)
As much as I would love to protect my own children from everything horrible that happens on this Earth, because of Mom I know better. My prayer is that like her, I will arm them for battle and be brave enough to send them out to face their own fears.
"When I am afraid, I will trust in Thee." Psalm 56:3