Wednesday, September 13, 2006

I am a Marvel

You might not know this, but I am hilarious. I've always been funny, though not everyone appreciated my humor. My husband and I dated in high school, and he would often come over in the evenings to help me with my math homework (I know, I know, we're a living stereotype of the mathematical gender gap). During these tutoring sessions, I would crack jokes left and right-- probably to stave off the suicidal tendencies that math always evokes in me-- but my sister and I were the only ones who laughed. My future husband seemed to be clothed in a joke-proof vest that deflected my punch-lines like hail on a golf cart. He wasn't rude about it—there was no eye-rolling or sighing or saying "is that the best you’ve got?” He just didn’t laugh. It’s a good thing my self-confidence didn’t depend on his approval.

These days, just being near me, you might laugh yourself into a belly-ache. I am like the Jay (or let’s say Jane) Leno of Motherhood. If you don't believe me, just ask my 9-month old son, Eli. Between giggles and snorts, he'll tell you about the high, turban-like thing wiggling on top of my head when I got out of the shower this morning: it was a blue towel! If this doesn’t crack you up, he'll describe how he bangs his feet on the changing table like a tiny patriot tolling the Liberty Bell, proclaiming his Freedom from the Tyranny of Diapers, and the high-pitched "boop" sound that I make as his human soundtrack to accompany each bang. If you're still looking unamused, Eli might ask you to put him into the stroller so that he can demonstrate the hilarious game of peek-a-boo we play with the rain-cover.

Not into comedy acts? Then perhaps you’ll be impressed by my beauty. I have never stopped traffic just by virtue of my proximity, but I am very beautiful. If you don’t believe me, just ask my 4-year-and-10-month-old daughter, Eleanor. When she was three, I received an ego-boosting report from her teacher at preschool. During outside playtime, the teacher had off-handedly remarked to Eleanor, “you sure are starting to look a lot like your Mama.” For Eleanor, it was as if the clouds parted and a beam of light came down from the heavens to surround her being. She was still warm and glowing when I picked her up, as she told me-- growing an inch or two just by speaking the words-- “Mama, did you know that I’m starting to look a lot like you?”

You might be tempted to rationalize that, being little, Eleanor only sees the good in me. But, having endured the scrutiny of her pinching, sticky little fingers and the intensity of her eyes that probe her world like the blazing, all-seeing Eye of Sauron, I know this isn’t true. One day she yanked up my shirt, surveyed my love-handles and modest spare tire—the vestiges of pregnancy and nursing that I’ve been ignoring quite happily, knowing that I’ll work on them after Eli is weaned—grabbed a handful, and said with all sincerity: “How will these come off when Eli is done nursing? Will they just fall off in chunks?” Then there’s the time she lovingly offered to put a bandaid onto my cheek, her nose scrunched up empathetically, pronouncing her diagnosis: “it looks like an owie but I think it might be a zit that never goes away.” Finally, there’s the many times she’s commented—without judgment, just in a matter-of-fact way like you might talk about the grass being green or the sky being blue—on the size of my bottom: “Whoa, Mama, let me scoot over, your bottom is way-hey-hey too big for that spot!”

Well, perhaps I’m not what pops into your head when you see the word gorgeous. But surely, surely you will be impressed with my strength. I can carry any combination of two-out-of-three of my children at any given time; one on each side of my body, even up or down the steep stairs of our 1915 Craftsman home. Alternatively, I can push two of my children in a double-stroller, heavy-laden with a week’s worth of groceries attached to the handle with enough caribeeners to secure ten mountain-climbers, while carrying Eli in the backpack. In an effort to cultivate strong, independent women in my girls, I often brag out loud about my prowess: “look how strong I am, girls! I can lift this ladder all by myself!” I mean this in honest humility: I really am amazed at all of the things I am inspired to do when I know my children are watching.

In June, all three of my children were baptized in one joyous, heart-felt ceremony. As is part of the tradition at my church, the pastor read the Birthright Blessing, adapted from a poem by Ernesto Cardenal, to each child:

Do you know what you are?

You are a marvel. You are
unique. In all the world, there is no other exactly like

In all the millions of years there has never been another
exactly like you.

You are a child of God. And you will be a
child of God forever.

No one can take this birthright from

May you continue to grow into the fullness of life that is
God’s intent for you.

And may you always know that you are loved.
At the time, I choked back happy tears as I reflected on the wonder of each of my precious children. Now, when I look at myself through their eyes, I begin to claim the Birthright Blessing for myself as well.

I am a marvel.

And I have a hunch that you are, too.


Jenni O said...

Hey, Ally. By way of introduction, I'm Alicia's friend from Oregon that now gets to be her friend in Denver. How lucky am I?! the poem at the end your most recent blog, so much so that I'd like to paint it on the walls of my boys' bedrooms. Or maybe what they really need is to have it painted on the walls of their hearts. My 12-year old is going through that adolescent, identity crisis time that we all hated and would never go back to. It occurred to me yesterday that the reason he won't live up to his potential in school is that he's deathly afraid of failing. I'd like to say I discovered this in one insightful "mommy moment", but in truth, he admitted it to me on the way to school...."Mom, what if you and dad do everything you can for me and I drop the ball on it? What if I don't accomplish the dream God put in my heart?" It took me all day to come up with a response to his fear. Late last night, as I tucked him in (yes, he still lets me do that), I told him that the only way he would really fail would be if he never tried at all. He seemed encouraged by that. I guess we'll see... I'm going to share this poem with him tonight and see what he says. Thanks, Alicia for sharing your sister's blog with me...

Lori said...

Ally- I went back and read this post from the link on your newest post. I love this. What a beautiful image to carry of yourself and to pass along to your children. And I love the Birthright Blessing. It reminds me of this quote,

"What do we teach our children?... We should say to each of them: Do you know what you are? You are a marvel. You are unique... You may become a Shakespeare, a Michelangelo, a Beethoven. You have the capacity for anything."
~Pablo Casals

Of course I like the Birthright Blessing better because it emphasizes that they already are *something*, they don't have to become something notable in order to be deemed worthy or special. Being a child of God is enough.