My dear friend and longtime colleague Ginny Kubitz Moyer has a wonderful new book out that’s perfect for Mother’s Day called Random MOMents of Grace. It’s all about her experience of being a mom and a nice addition to her very fine blog, Random Acts of MOMness which I love for the Fisher-Price toy on her homepage banner alone.
Ginny is the mother of two boys: Matthew and Luke–they’re just about past the toddler stage, but they are boys. And Ginny is this regal woman, a classically trained English scholar. She carries herself so elegantly everywhere she goes, with her hubby Scott, another classy guy himself.
So now picture her with two boys who think poop is the most hysterical thing in the world!
Boys indeed are yucky. They love mud and boogers and playing with food. And somehow this woman rolls with it as the mother of these two…BOYS.
I’m sure I was no worse than Ginny’s boys when I was her age. And one of her chapters jarred a memory of me and my own mother.
I was 6 and in first grade. My elementary school was a block from our apartment house. To get home I would walk out the gate and walk down to the corner mailbox where my mother would be waiting across the street. I would catch her gaze and wave each day. A reunion that I would look forward to each day. Somedays my sister (who is 16 years older) would be the one to meet me and I loved my sister, but she wasn’t mom.
A bit of a backstory. My mother has suffered immensely in her life with the disease of rheumatoid arthritis and a host of other ailments. There were numerous hospital trips and a few times when I was young it was touch and go as to whether mom was going to survive. She rallied each time and today at 85 she’s still around. But to be a little boy with a sick mother was no easy task. It caused me much anxiety and so each reunion with my mom was always a reason to rejoice. It meant a day of health and not a day of hospital, where I was too young to go and visit mom.
So mom would always tell me that “Someone” will be there by the deli to help me cross the street and walk the rest of the way home. I trusted that knowledge and it was as dependable as the sun.
One day I was walking towards the corner with the mailbox and for some reason Robert Kastner thought it would be a good idea to push me…repeatedly. My mother saw two boys pushing and she knew that it couldn’t possibly be her son. I looked across the street and didn’t see mom. I was slightly worried but I was also excited. I am going to cross the street by myself and walk the rest of the way home and surprise mom!
I looked both ways and then another mom decided to give me a hand and cross me. I ran past the three houses to my home and bounded up the stairs. I knocked on the second floor door to my parent’s home.
Nothing. No answer.
Mom was gone. Where did she go? Maybe she went to the hospital and won’t come back and I’ll never see her again? Maybe she’s inside and can’t answer the door? Maybe she just got fed up with me because I wasn’t a good boy at school today?
I started to cry. Loudly. So loudly that my neighbor, Mrs. White heard me from her apartment below mine and then Mrs. Nappi, our landlord upstairs also heard me. They came to see what was wrong. I told them I didn’t know where my mommy was and that I had walked home but mommy was not by the deli and I thought I had just beat her to her post. Mrs. Nappi got the key to our apartment and they went in and searched the whole apartment with me waiting in the living room. It was empty.
Mrs. Nappi, always a little gruff said, “Are you sure you just didn’t walk past her and she didn’t see you?”
“I don’t know!” I replied through tears.
“Don’t worry, Michael, we’ll find her.” Mrs. White said.
We began to go downstairs to try to find mom outside. Mom meanwhile walked up to the school when she didn’t see me pass her on the corner. I had just not seen her (probably because the jerk Robert Kastner was pushing me). Mom had ignored the pushing kids and looked for me in the scrum of other kids, but I was not in that crowd.
As we reached the bottom of the stairs the door opened and there she was: Mom! I ran to her and was screaming crying. My mother was as white as a sheet when she arrived. Alls well that ends well, but this was too much. Simply put, mom missed me in the crowd of pushing kids.
Ginny in her book talks about the importance of routine for a child and the honor she has of picking up her boys “after nap and snack.”
There’s a satisfaction in knowing that I am bound to my little boys as surely as God is bound to me. I reaffirm this covenant over and over, every time I change a diaper or hug someone after a nightmare or pick up my little preschool scholar after nap and snack. And I like knowing that I am providing two little people with a sense of security, that I am giving them the confident assurance that Mom isn’t going anywhere.
My childhood was shattered when that sense of security was breached. My mom WAS in fact where she was supposed to be, but this time she just lost sight of me and I, her. The terror in her heart was probably 10 times mine.
I treasure my mom and know that she has never left me and never will. Moms make that first theological truth for us tangible: God never forgets us. For us to believe that, we need mom to claim us as her own, to always be there and for us to be comforted by those rhythms of the covenant. In a world too often marked by neglect and divorce, mom’s have a tough job in getting their little boys to trust that they will always be there “after nap and snack.” That nothing can ever separate them from mom, just as nothing separates us from God’s love either. It is the heart of our faith.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Ginny’s book outlines all those times that moms reflect God’s presence for us. It’s a gem of a book and I have just purchased a copy for my mom for this mother’s day. Perhaps you might too and let it jar the memory of your now-no-longer-little boy memory?
I will never know the joy of having children. It is an unrealized dream for me. So I have to live vicariously through Ginny. So I treasure her stories. In some ways, Ginny’s writing has mothered me through the death of this unrealized dream, softening the blow a bit and moving me into the other dreams that God always offers me. It is there that I find the mother-God is always there waiting for me.
After nap and snack.