Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Invisible Mother

It all began to make sense, the blank stares, the lack of response,
the way one of the kids will walk into the room while I'm on the
phone and ask to be taken to the store. Inside I'm thinking, 'Can't
you see I'm on the phone?' Obviously, not.

No one can see if I'm on the phone, or cooking, or sweeping the
floor, or even standing on my head in the corner, because no one can
see me at all. I'm invisible. The invisible Mom. Some days I am
only a pair of hands, nothing more: Can you fix this? Can you tie
this? & can you open this?

Some days I'm not a pair of hands; I'm not even a human being. I'm
a clock to ask, 'What time is it?'; I'm a satellite guide to
answer, 'What number is the Disney Channel?' I'm a car to order,
'Right around 5:30, please.'

One night, a group of us were having dinner, celebrating the return
of a friend from England .. Janice had just gotten back from a
fabulous trip, and she was going
on and on about the hotel she stayed in. I was sitting there,
looking around at the others all put together so well. It was hard
not to compare and feel sorry for myself. I was feeling pretty
pathetic, when Janice turned to me with a beautifully wrapped
package, and said, 'I brought you this.' It was a book on the great
cathedrals of Europe . I wasn't exactly sure why she'd given it to
me until I read her inscription:

'To Charlotte , with admiration for the greatness of what you are
building when no one sees.'

In the days ahead I would read - no, devour - the book. And I would
discover what would become for me, four life-changing truths, after
which I could pattern my work: No one can say who built the great
cathedrals - we have no record of their names. These builders gave
their whole lives for a work they would never see finished.
They made great sacrifices and expected no credit.
The passion of their building was fueled by their faith that the
eyes of God saw everything.

A legendary story in the book told of a rich man who came to visit
the cathedral while it was being built, and he saw a workman carving
a tiny bird on the inside of a beam. He was puzzled and asked the
man, 'Why are you spending so much time carving that bird into a
beam that will be covered by the roof? No one will ever see it.'
And the workman replied, 'Because God sees.'

I closed the book, feeling the missing piece fall into place. It
was almost as if I heard God whispering to me, 'I see you, Charlotte.

I see the sacrifices you make every day, even when no one around you

does. No act of kindness you've done, no sequin you've sewn on, no

cupcake you've baked, is too small for me to notice and smile over. You

are building a great cathedral, but you can't see right now what it will become.'

At times, my invisibility feels like an affliction. But it is not a
disease that is erasing my life. It is the cure for the disease of
my own self-centeredness. It is the antidote to my strong, stubborn
pride. I keep the right perspective when I see myself as a great
builder. As one of the people who show up at a job that they will
never see finished, to work on something that their name will never
be on.

When I really think about it, I don't want my daughter to tell the
friend she's bringing home from college for Thanksgiving, 'My Mom
gets up at 4 in the morning and bakes homemade pies, and then she
hand bastes a turkey for three hours and presses all the linens for
the table.' That would mean I'd built a shrine or a monument to
myself. I just want her to want to come home. And then, if there is
anything more to say to her friend, to add, 'you're gonna love it

As mothers, we are building great cathedrals. We cannot see if we're
doing it right. And one day, it is very possible that the world will
marvel, not only at what we have built, but at the beauty that has
been added to the world by the sacrifices of invisible women.

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