A four part series.
I’ve been thinking about how we moms want our kids to remember us. And maybe what we think will make an impression on them is very different than what they end up remembering. Maybe it’s not keeping up on the laundry or the dishes or doing the perfect crafts or attending every sporting event. Maybe our kids are marked by memories of our motherhood we couldn’t possibly imagine let alone check off a list of recommended parenting to-dos.
So I invited four friends this week to share a “What Mama Did” post with us. What special, unique memory did they carry away from their wash, rinse, and repeat days of childhood that their moms never could have planned for?
And on Friday I’m going to ask you to come and share your own “What Mama Did” memory.
May they encourage you and remind you that you are beloved so much deeper, higher and wider than the laundry hamper.
Today, my friend Sarah Bessey shares what her mama did. Sarah is a writer filled with a wild grace and a vulnerable courage who sends us her words from Canada and reminds me that motherhood and faith go hand in hand.
My mum had a backache the whole day long. She was four days overdue, but that wasn’t stopping her. She went out and about for the whole day, visiting her parents, her in-laws, puttering around the house. But her water broke at eleven that night, just as she was wearily dropping into sleep, and so my parents drove to the old Pasqua Hospital in Regina. She gave birth to her first baby, a little girl, at 6:56 a.m. and, oh, she laughed and laughed. Her young red-haired husband cried, and they took pictures with a Polaroid camera. Those pictures have faded, the frame is nearly empty now, just a ghost-image of the joy of the day remains.
When she had her second baby two years later, labour went very quickly – just three hours. After all, she was ten days overdue. When she checked into the hospital close to midnight, the doctor solemnly asked if she was at all comfortable with the attendance of perhaps a student or two to observe her delivery, no pressure of course, Mrs. Styles. She laughed and invited the entire class of serious medical students to line up in the room, and then she chattered and laughed so incessantly that the doctor finally had to beg her to be quiet and focus. After her daughter was born at 2:13 a.m. weighing nearly 9lbs, the students applauded and they lined up to shake her hand before they left. “Mrs. Styles,” they all said, “we never knew giving birth could be this fun!” She was nearly high with adrenaline and excitement, with her own sense of power and strength. She was made to be a mother. She knew it, her husband knew it, and her girls grew up knowing it.
These are the stories of how my sister and I came into the world. I have them memorized because my mother has spent most of my life, telling us stories of our lives, her own life, my father’s life, my grandparents’ lives, all the way back.
I am descended from a long line of exaggerating, laughing, yarn-spinning, opinion-hollering storytellers. We have opinions on everything and I grew up surrounded by long and loud discussions on politics and hockey, the two great Canadian pastimes. But my mother kept almost all her stories close, and she spun our own yarn.
On the night before our birthdays, she would stay a bit longer in our room at bedtime. She smelled like Noxema, still warm from her nightly bath. She’d gather us close, and tell us all about how we came into the world, surrounded by her joy and her laughter. By the time we were in elementary school, my sister and I had each others’ birth weights and birth times memorized.
There were other stories. She decided to breastfeed because her friend, Maureen, came to visit her at the hospital and told her all about how wonderful it was. In those days, not too many women were exclusively breastfeeding, and I heard about how people would ask her if she wasn’t tired of being tied down all the time because of her choice to breastfeed, and how she always responded that her babies were such nice little people to be tied to.
There’s the story of how when I was three weeks old, I cried and cried on her birthday. Her big sister had come to take her out as a birthday treat but I was small and inconsolable, yearning only for her. She stood in the entrance with her favourite red coat on, the one edged with fake fur, her make-up on, her long sheet of golden brown hair tucked inside from the wind, and then she chose to stay home with me. She said it was like a line crossing, a moment in her life that she won’t ever forget because it was the first time she ever consciously made a decision to put someone else’s needs before her own. She used to say that it was the moment she decided what kind of mother she wanted to be. Her sister stayed with her and they rocked me and laughed because really the point was just being together anyway. (She adores her big sister and, together, they can make anything fun, even a crying newborn.)
I can tell you about how my parents met each other: my Dad whisked her away to a pub during school and kept her from a typing test. I can tell you about how he asked her to marry him in his parents’ basement on a Saskatchewan Roughriders game day and then they drove the whole way to Taylor Stadium with her hanging out the window, hollering for her friends from high school to come see her tiny solitaire diamond. I can tell you about my dad growing up at Kitchener school, and I knew all their old high school friends by name even though we had long moved away from Regina. I know how she came to know Jesus because she became a mother and was suddenly wondering what love is and how to love better. I know how she felt when she was a little girl, about the great sorrows and hurts of her life, about her fears and her insecurities, because as I got older, her stories became more complex and intimate. We would take long walks when I was in my late teens and early twenties, and the whole time we walked, we talked, and we always talked about our lives right now and our lives then and how it was all connected. My mother’s life story is built into my marrow, and I feel like I know her, truly know her, and I don’t take that gift lightly: I feel protective of her.
Now I’m the mother smelling like Noxema, gathering my three tinies on the night before a birthday to tell them about how they were born, and how much I love being their mother. (They always enjoy the story of Joseph’s birth in particular since his was an unattended, unintended birth in our building’s parkade. Lord, have mercy.)
I’m pretty sure that part of the reason why I write in my weird made-up genre of narrative theology is because I’m wanting to tell a bigger and greater story of our Father’s love for us. I am so tired of colour-coded charts and three-point arguments, marriage manuals and narrow boxes of parenting rules. I want a bit more fresh air than that, and the story of Jesus is my very favourite. My own small family was built on the power of story, we were held together by our common narrative and our belief in its worthiness, and so naturally, I want to tell stories of God’s great love and faithfulness, generation to generation, and I want to tell of his goodness and his gentleness, I want to tell you how he has mattered in my own life, saved me, healed me, made me whole, and set me free.
And I want to tell my tinies, once a year, every year, how they came into the world while their mother laughed and their father cried with joy and angels rejoiced.
Sarah Bessey is a writer and blogger (www.sarahbessey.com). She lives in Abbotsford, British Columbia with her husband, Brian, and their three tines, Anne, Joseph, and Evelynn. Her first book “Jesus Feminist: An Invitation to the Kingdom of God Waiting on the Other Side of our Church’s Gender Debates” will be published by Howard Books (an imprint of Simon & Schuster) in 2013. She is a happy clappy Jesus lover, a joyful subversive, a voracious reader, an unrepentant hashtag abuser, and a social justice wannabe.