One night, a couple of days after I had been asked if I would speak on Mother’s Day, I found myself standing in my basement watching quite the scene. Water was running, dripping, pouring into the basement. Soggy ceiling tiles, shorted out light, puddled carpet, saturated insulation. As I threw down towels, wrung out towels, moved buckets, moved stuff out of the wet zone, ran upstairs and ran back downstairs, I realized I was standing barefoot right smack dab in the middle of the perfect picture of motherhood. In my eyes anyway.
Mothers are constantly assessing, diverting, praying, learning, evaluating, judging, sucking it up, crying, prioritizing, choosing, redirecting, swearing (sorry, I had to throw that one in there because, yes, I was swearing), plugging, cleaning, surveying…and then we take a quick breath and start it all over again in the next moment.
The earliest dream I remember having when I was a young girl was the desire, wish, longing to have been a pioneer. Dressing up in my Grandma's pioneer clothes - complete with bonnet, lace up dresses and button-up shoes - was a little bit of Heaven for me. I'd let my imagination take me away to a time when I knew in my heart of hearts, I would have been one of the valiant pioneers. I would have cooked over cowpie fires with no complaining and walked miles and miles and never once tripped over my long skirts or petticoats. But I was quick to realize I had been a fence sitter too long in the pre-existence. I had missed my chance to be a Pioneer. So, this dream of being a pioneer was stored in the back of my mind…just in case.
I got older and along with the short term aspirations of being a world famous bug collector and a roller skate queen, I began to dream of being a musician. Until I sat on my violin. Fortunately, I had a mother who was willing to let me keep trying but with the piano this time, something I was supposed to sit on. Then the organ. Then the hippie in me won out and I took up the guitar. Circumstances changed and this dream of being musically talented was stored in the back of my mind…just in case.
I have always wanted to be a writer. Again, my mother was supportive as she helped me rhyme words and count syllables as I tried to write down what was in my head and my heart. But then elective classes in school hit and I decided I could be an artist. Oil paints, linseed oil, chalks….I could do this. But I could only copy someone else’s work, I couldn’t paint what was in my own head. And so this dream of writing something important that others would enjoy and painting a priceless masterpiece were stored in the back of my mind…just in case..
I went to college with aspirations of being a social worker. A couple of hard classes and I felt defeated so I decided to change my major to education. I began working towards a teaching degree. Then I met Alan. School continued but there were other choices and options on the horizon now. So, goals of being either a social worker or teacher were stored in the back of mind...just in case.
The night before I was to be married, my mother and I were talking. I’m not sure what exactly brought it up, but I informed her that if, for some reason, Alan was not at the temple the next morning, I would be getting in my VW bug and heading somewhere far, far away. I would not stop until I came to the first Peace Corp office and there I would be joining the Peace Corp. I would devote my life to serving others and taking care of those less fortunate than myself and she may or may not ever see me again. It was dark as we were talking, but I’m pretty sure I heard her eyes roll. I'm pretty sure she spent the rest of that night in fervent prayer that Alan WOULD be at the temple in the morning. Needless to say, Alan was at the temple the next morning and, so, my Peace Corp dream was stored in the back of my mind…just in case.
I had a variety of goals and dreams and longings as a young girl…
Life happened. Cooking, sewing, keeping house and looking after a husband all took a front row seat in my life.
And then, when baby #1, fresh from Heaven with his own little set of challenges and talents, was laid in my arms, I was blown away. I was honestly in new, unchartered, unmapped territory! And then #2, #3, #4 and #5 – each of them with their own set of challenges and talents for me to discover and learn and help them master. Sometimes I wandered through thickly forested areas or gravel pits or on paths with thorned bushes on either side. Sometimes it was more of a straight path through beautiful meadows. Whichever way, no matter how many books had been written or how many “perfect” mothers there were out there, I was forging my own path. Figuring things out on a daily basis. Praying constantly for help. I realized my dream. Fence sitter or not...
I got to be a pioneer.
I learned to create harmony out of the sound of children’s off-tune, marching-to-their-own-drum melodies – all playing simultaneously, usually with no volume control and sometimes around the clock.
I got to be a musician.
And not a moment in the day went by that I did not try to write on my children’s hearts words of love and encouragement. "Be your best", "It's what's inside that counts", "You are my sunshine", "You can do anything if you want to bad enough". And at the end of every day, there was always an "I love you, no matter what" and a kiss. And those Kodak moments came frequently enough, giving me a glimpse into the beautiful, unique eternal nature of these spirits entrusted to me - these priceless masterpieces. And I was renewed.
I got to be a writer. I got to be an artist.
Trying to help children be graceful in hard situations; be strong but it's okay to cry; learn to recognize the promptings of the Holy Ghost; hand out forks to everyone, sit on the floor and enjoy the cake that just fell off the counter; always remember who they are and where they come from and instill them a desire to always do their best, be their best and be Christ like - all were giving me more experience in social work than college courses. Explaining to one son that if you are going to ride your bike with your feet on the handlebars and your arms flapping in the breeze, you probably deserve that large goose egg on your head -- and you should be very grateful that is all you got. Reading books alongside them to make sure they understood what they were reading; singing along with their ukuleles to "Hang Down Your Head, Tom Dooley"; understanding why I quit math after high school geometry; teaching them that school work NOT finished at school automatically becomes HOME work and they did need to bring it HOME And, of course, running alongside an uncertain but determined bike-rider right after the training wheels had been removed. All of these instances, as well as many others, made me a better teacher than anything I would have learned in my college courses.
I was a social worker. I most certainly got to teach.
I never made it to any 3rd world countries with the Peace Corp. But I will argue that catching barf in my lap, wiping runny noses with my bare hands, rinsing messy diapers out in the toilet multiple times a day, trying to put a bandaid on a minor owie while the wounded child screamed bloody murder, scraping food out of hair, noses and ears, trying to understand why one child is sitting on the roof while trying to figure out which child stole the ladder, rescuing stuffed animals from being drowned and flushed down the toilet and reading the same little Golden Books over and over and over and over again rivals anything I could have done in another country. I may have gone to bed exhausted but oh, so very satisfied.
I got to serve others.
Never would I have imagined that I would attain all my dreams. And never would I have believed it would happen by just becoming a Mom!