Advent 23: For all the Mothers in the World


Though I try to remind myself how rational I am, what admirably low expectations I have for the holidays, I always get hit upside the head. Today, I huffed and puffed because no one else in my family seemed to be preparing as ardently as I was (“This tiramisu is not going to make itself!”), and underneath it all, there was nostalgia. Nostalgia for when my kids weren’t so picky with their Christmas lists, nostalgia for some simpler time that actually never existed.

The parenting Mt. Everest continues around here, and I considered posting a poem I wrote this week about my almost sixteen year-old son. Then I remembered what the poet Ellen Bass said. If she writes about her adult children, she shows it to them first. And I feel sure Wyatt would say, “No way.”

Yancey rallied after dinner and suggested we drive around and look at Christmas lights, which seemed to cheer us all up. We passed around a phone and took turns choosing Christmas songs. Loretta and I got really excited about this turn of events, and Yancey and Wyatt, by this time in December, have completely had their fill of yule tunes. When Wyatt’s turn came, he picked Springsteen’s My Hometown, and we all sang along. I rested my head against the back of the seat, glad it was dark so Wyatt couldn’t see my tears. I love that he picked that song, and I think he knew that.

These last days of December, my thoughts always turn to Mary and to all the mothers and mothering energy in the world. Love that says “Yes” despite the heartache of it all. The story of Christmas, at its core, is a story about a mother having a baby and the rebirth available to all of us when we don’t try to protect ourselves. When we don’t do the safe thing.

My prayer for myself and everyone who loves someone else fiercely, whether it’s your child or not, is that we keep putting ourselves out there. We keep staying awake until we hear the door open, we keep risking disappointment or getting it wrong, we keep going all in even though an end or a change is inevitable.

Dorianne Laux has some beautiful poems about mothering, and I find myself craving wisdom from elders at this time in my life. I’ll leave you with the closing lines from her poem Planning the Future about her sixteen year-old daughter:

…And I can see clearly
the day she’ll walk away, keys on a ring,
a suitcase banging her legs.
The the real work of motherhood will begin,
the job of waking into each morning, trusting.

P.S. A photo from eight years ago. From the left, Wyatt, my niece Hannah Mae, and Loretta. Sigh.