To have a Mother's Heart
“There is no limit to what a woman with a mother heart can accomplish.”--Julie B. Beck
My mom made me a bouquet out of brooches when I got engaged to Michael. This meant a great deal to me for a number of reasons. For one, it was to be a sparkly keepsake---and before we decided to elope, (Okay, we weren’t that cool. We half eloped after my mom, um, I mean someone suggested it.) I told people that I wanted my wedding colors to be sparkle. It also meant that we got to spend an afternoon looking at gorgeous antique brooches in an eccentric consignment shop. It was expensive. It was time consuming. But most importantly, it meant my mom trusted me.
You see, my mom was understandably concerned when her 23-year-old daughter started talking to her about getting married less than a year after her first marriage ended. I’m not a mother, so I can’t fully comprehend what it was like to see her child in so much pain post-divorce, but I imagine it wasn’t easy. I also inferred that she, in some small way, felt a little responsible. Of course, that doesn’t logically make any sense, but I get the feeling that she felt bad that her “mom-radar” didn’t go off, forewarning her that my first marriage was not meant to be.
So you can imagine how she’d take the news that I was falling in love at a supersonic speed with a boy that she’d never even laid eyes on. No, I wasn’t trying to kill my mother...the timing was just impeccably off. So, as any good mom would do, she lovingly (and a bit bluntly) voiced her concerns. I recall a conversation where she said something along the lines of, “I know you are an adult and the choice is yours, but I am still your mom, and it’s my job to give you advice.” I read between the lines, “Now you listen you silly, heart-on-your-sleeve wearing, rose-colored-lenses-viewing, daughter of mine! You are being rash!” Unfortunately for both of us, the only response I had for her was the truth, the old cliché that I knew in my heart it was right, that when I prayed about it, I got an undeniable and overwhelming feeling of YES! Do it!, and that he was the “best man I’ve ever met.” I understood completely where she was coming from, (Okay, I’m no mother, so probably not completely.) and I wished I had some kind of defense that didn’t sound like a total and utter cop out, but like I said, all I had was that gut feeling.
She could have fought me on it every step of the way, but that’s not my mom. She said her piece, and when I held firm in my decision, she chose to trust me. What a woman! She helped me pick out the perfect wedding dress and spent hours making me a brooch bouquet-- and I knew for certain that she was behind me.
I’ve always been one to care a little too much about what other people think, and although I had many friends vocalize their concerns over my sanity, I didn’t waiver in my decision to marry Michael. It was my mom that I called when there had been one too many comments made by a family member or friend hinting that I was just being stupid for having the nerve to fall in love again so fast. All I needed was the gentle approval of my mom saying, “Oh, Kelsey. I’d completely understand if the two of you just went ahead and did the dang thing” to validate me. I think it was a day later, on a Wednesday, that I called her and told her that I’d be getting married on Friday. (A whole two months sooner than previously planned.) She squealed with delight and promptly shipped my freshly finished bouquet to me in Idaho.
When the bouquet arrived, the first thing to catch my eye was the tiny golden heart dangling from a chain near the handle. Inside the heart there’s a mother cradling her infant. I recognized the necklace instantly, it had belonged to my grandmama (my dad’s mom) and given to my mother after she passed away. The necklace instantly became the most valuable thing I had--my first family heirloom. The mother holding her child was the perfect symbol for my mom and grandmama, the two women who have taught me the most about the selfless art of motherhood.
My mom told me that when she and my dad had a bunch of young kids and money was especially tight, Grandmama would stop by and visit sometimes with a bag of groceries in hand. Bread and milk---all the staples. She wouldn’t say anything other than, “I was in the neighborhood.” She taught me that a good cook cleans the kitchen as they go, that it’s a good idea to keep butterscotch candies and orange soda on hand, and that afghan blankets could be made with whichever leftover yarn you had (no matter how poorly they matched!). She was the kindest woman I’ve ever known, and I will miss her until I get to squeeze her again.
And then there’s my mom...and like, honestly what can I even say? Sometimes I think about how frail she got during her chemo treatments back in 2012. I think about how small she looked, and then when she lost her hair, how childlike. But even then her concern was for me, or for my brothers, or for my sister. She was worried I wasn’t eating enough. (Puh-lease.) Worried I had a cold. Worried I wasn’t getting enough sleep. But that’s always been her. When I was a kid: buying me two new church dresses when she hadn’t bought any new clothes in over a year. When I was a teenager: crying with me the first time I had my heart broken by a boy. And now as an adult, she’s the one I call when I have good news or bad news or spoiled plans or good ideas or really bad ideas or recipe catastrophes. And every day I am so grateful that I still have her to call on.
Now I wear the mother heart necklace around my neck everyday. I have a habit of squeezing it when I’m nervous. I kissed it when I got my first positive pregnancy test in May, and was clutching it in a sweaty fist when I got the phone call a week and a half later when I was told I would end up miscarrying. It has given me hope during my days battling infertility, and reminds me that you don’t have to be someone’s mother to have a mother heart.
“In my experience I have seen that some of the truest mother hearts beat in the breasts of women who will not rear their own children in this life, but they know that all things must come to pass in their time and that they are laying the foundation of a great work.”-Julie B. Beck