Sunday, May 11, 2014

I hope I'm Like You When I Grow Up

Five months ago I tried to write a post in honor of my mom's 26th birthday.  She's been celebrating 26th birthdays for years now.

Since I'd finally surpassed her in age, I thought I'd perhaps be able to take the last 27 years of knowing my mom and squish them into 1,000 words or less.  But I couldn't.

Describing my mom was like trying to use hand gestures to make a friend understand how I felt the first time I stood under a moonless indigo sky ablaze with stars hanging so low I could reach up and grab them.

There are some things that cannot be confined to a string of symbols on a page.  A mother's influence is one of those things.

But still, words can give glimpses of glory; they can be pinpricks of light, like the stars, pointing us to a brighter, truer Light.

And so today, in honor of my mom, I've written a letter listing a few of the things I love about her.

Dear Mom,

Remember those cat eye sunglasses with the *very* colorful rims?  I was in fifth grade when you wore them. In public. And you didn't care what other people thought.  You didn't listen to my stammering protests, or pay attention to the most recent fashion magazines.  You just donned them with confidence and style.  I think you may have even danced your way into the mall with those things on your head, just in case people hadn't already noticed them.

I love you for that.

I love that you've always marched — or danced — to the rhythm of your own drummer.  You haven't tried to cram your soul into the stifling corsets* of silly expectations, reductionistic roles, or cultural 'coolness.'

In the Austrian Alps, 2004

Your tenacious commitment to be who God calls you to be is evident beyond your daring sunglass choices.

It was evident when you stood alone before the city council to challenge an unethical education mandate.

It was evident when you stood up for the woman in your musical theater group whose male director felt her youth and timidity made it okay for him to invade her privacy and publicly degrade her.

It was evident when you brought the four of us kids to the courthouse to participate in silent protests on the anniversary of Roe vs. Wade.  You wanted to show us that there are some things in the world worth fighting for, and that it is possible fight in a quiet and respectful way.

That's my little brother Marc hopping down the stairs.
My mom is behind him wearing the same 'Former Fetus' sign

When people drove by honking and yelling profanities at us, we watched you smile graciously, with dignity.  When a man walked past and accused you of brainwashing us, you engaged him respectfully, but didn't back down.  Because you knew that it isn't brainwashing to instill in your kids a value for our most fundamental right—the right to live—and it isn't brainwashing to raise your kids with a sense of justice and a commitment to action when the world goes topsy turvy.

You taught us how to do the right thing, even under persecution, but you also taught us that life is for having fun.

When we studied world religions you thought it would be fun to celebrate the Jewish festival of booths, and so we made a booth—or sukkah—in our backyard and ate our meals in it that week.

When we grew older and got too stressed from school, or too irritated with each other, you'd show us how to throw back our heads and laugh and let the stress and irritation drain from our spirits, like air from a balloon.

And when you met people who'd moved here from other countries you'd invite them to our house for holidays.  They'd bring authentic cuisine from their country and teach us new words, and we learned that the world is big and grand and full of new friends.

I could go on and on, mom; you taught us so many things.

You taught us that we were more important than your sleep when we'd wake up sick in the middle of the night; and that paint, foam, and cardboard are for creating Halloween costumes, doll houses, and Christmas presents.

You taught us that empty amphitheaters in foreign countries are for dancing,

that empty plots of land are for gardening,

and that empty dishwashers are for loading.

All of this: pinpricks of light pointing us to a greater, truer Light.

A few months ago little brother Marc was driving onto his college campus with his buddy.  As they crawled across speed bumps Marc noticed a male student about his age, standing alone and looking despondent.

Go talk to him.  That inner voice prompted Marc to do something risky and unusual, even embarrassing.

He turned to his friend and asked him to stop the car.  Slowly, he approached the student.  He talked to him for awhile and the kid told Marc he was lonely and discouraged. Marc got his phone number so they could hang out, and he walked back to the car, one friend richer.

I swelled with pride when I heard the story, and then I thought of you, mom.  Because that day Marc reminded me of you.

Like you, he has become a man who heeds the voice of the Spirit, even when it's uncomfortable.

This is because we learn more from watching lives lived than we learn from powerful rhetoric and substantive textbooks.

We grew up imitating you, mom, and you have always marched to the beat of the Maker of music —the One wired you to dance, stand up for the oppressed, initiate new friendships, and wear zany sunglasses.

And so today, on mother's day, telling you I'm thankful for you just doesn't cut it.

But I am.

I'm thankful for you,

I love you,

and I hope I'm like you when I grow up.

Thank you for being such a marvelous mother.

Happy Mother's Day,

Your Sarah Christine

*My friend, author and apologist, Jonalyn Fincher, uses this imagery of 'soul corsets' in her book Ruby Slippers

© by scj

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