I was born 39 years ago today under an African sky in the middle of nowhere Zululand.
This will be my twenty first birthday without the woman who gave me her name, her story, and her crooked smile.
I have grown up and into her skin. Children in two different countries myself, a whole host of zip codes and learning finally the value of the seemingly small.
Because you can dig your life into the ups and downs of a neighborhood around you and find you have the dirt of good community under your fingernails. And that there’s no shame in cleaning toilets. Or changing diapers. And that while I thought my mom was a dreamer caught up in her books, I missed the part where she was writing the story of my extraordinary ordinary right there even on the days she picked me up late from school.
How she wiped my bangs back from my eyes, so softly. How she danced in the living room to Bruce Springsteen. How she made me soft white bread sandwiches sprinkled with sugar for the most decadent of snacks and fanned me with my sheet on the sticky summer nights. How it pours out of me, this being Jo’s daughter and me learning the art of living the big right tied up in a bow of the small.
The curls or blue, baby toes of a summer afternoon.
My baby daughter climbs out of her bed and comes to my side late at night, “cause I just gotta tell you sumthin’, mama.” And I’ve made my choice. This is my story. This song of motherhood that sings over everything else I do.
Whatever job I’ve had, whatever long commutes I’ve traveled and daycare drop offs I’ve navigated I return to the homing beacon of these babies that have poured out of me like an anthem to the glory I didn’t know could live in loads of dirty laundry and Batman Underoos.
There is a superhero that lives here buried in the daily routine and the remembering to sign school forms and fill out the requisite number of reading minutes completed. There are songs that rise beyond the smell of burnt bagels and take flight on Monday mornings right there on the smudged counter top between the school lunches and the back packs.
I’ve got it wrong a hundred times.
I’ve caterwauled and threatened to quit and wondered if I was up for the challenge when the finish line keeps moving and there is always one more load of dishes to do.
But we do what we do. We load those dishes and the words that need to be said again and again and again. All the “I love yous” and the “I’m sorrys” and we start over and we forgive and we bend lower and remember that leadership in a family is uniquely tied to followership of a Gospel that says the first shall be last and comforts mothers when bad days happen because His mercies are new every morning.
And you are mighty because you mother.
Because you mix raising tiny humans into the chaos of a life spilled out on business development, or your etsy store, the law firm you started or the art studio you opened. You say yes and open your arms and create wonder for a five year old the night before you have to be at that big presentation.
You go all in even on the days you are right done in.
You are the deeper meaning in the rut of routine.
You are the art in the landscape of ordinary.
And this makes you super extraordinary.
A friend sent me this cape.
She knows I joke about how motherhood should come with a super hero cape.
But it was no joke when I held that cape in my hands. I felt the surprised tears coming from a deep place of exhaustion. A place of being overwhelmed and worn right through like the carpet the kids have tracked too much mud over for too many years. The stretch marks from mothering don’t end after labor.
We keep laboring long years after kids arrive.
It is heroic. Maybe more so because of how seldom it is recognized.
So today, on my birthday, may I offer this gift? Simply a reminder that if you mother, grandmother, aunt, or babysit children then you are remarkable. Period.
And I’d like to pass this beautiful cape, this red and golden reminder of the glorious ordinary of motherhood, onto another mother.
If you’re reading today, will you click here and come and leave a comment, a story, a sentence about another mother who has inspired you lately? Or who needs encouragement? Or who is a super hero that perhaps has lost her cape?
I’ve got one with her name on it.
And at the end of this week I’m going to randomly choose one comment and send this cape on to it’s next owner. And then maybe one day she’ll pass it on again too.
We none of us do this alone.
This story of motherhood? It is celebrated every time a child huffs and puffs and blows those birthday candles out.
Like so many wishes come true.
There is a super hero cape now making it’s way to Talitha’s mama. But may I just say, the secret is that all mamas are wearing that cape – look over your shoulder friend, it’s already there fluttering brave in the wind. I promise.
Talitha, comment #64 said: Momma was always there. She just went through stage 4 breast cancer last year and again, what a pillar of strength. Her faith is strong even when her body is broken down. All of this while walking through depression, clinical, life-long depression. I wish she could see what others who know her see: a woman who has overcome again and again and who has given a living legacy to her children and now grandchildren as well.