Today is Mother's Day. I forgot all about it until I was at church and the primary children got up to sing that one song, you know the one that's all about mothers and love and awwwwwww! fer Cute! Of course it made me cry and it made me miss my mommy and I started to think about what it is that makes her so special. I think the answer lies in a Yellow Michael Jackson Jacket from Kmart.
As with most children, my memories of childhood events are colored by my perceptions...as the third oldest of seven children I remember a youth filled with late summer nights chasing fireflies in the parking lot across from our house in New Jersey and waking up on cold winter mornings to hot Cream of Wheat and butter toast and then walking to school backwards while my little brother Kevin cried because of the whipping wind. I remember understanding even as a child that we did not have much money and things were always tight...most of my clothes were hand-me-downs from my cousins Ang and Steph (lucky! from a family of only TWO kids) and I was so excited when a new black garbage bag full of new old clothes would arrive with visiting relatives. (perhaps this explains my love of thrift shopping now?)
I also remember feeling plagued by the meanness of other children. Social things seemed to be very difficult for all of the Daley children. I imagine now with my clearer adult perception that I *may* have been an annoying child (can you imagine???)...verbal and insecure and easily swayed by my peers in my effort to be liked by everyone. I was a showoff with a big mouth and even from a young age I was aware that I didn't really fit in with the norm. This was painful and it must have been especially painful for my parents to watch from the sidelines...As an older sister, I often internalized the social trauma of my siblings and I can only imagine what it does to a parent who has little or no control over such things but still has to comfort and somehow try to assuage the damage.
And that brings me to the Michael Jackson jacket. In the second grade at Elmer Elementary School it was very clear what was cool and what was not cool...Michael Jackson was cool...flowered canvas jackets were not cool. I owned a flowered canvas jacket (probably a hand-me-down) and by extension was NOT cool. I don't remember exactly who made fun of me, what they said or why it caused me such intense emotion but I came home from school that day absolutely devastated. I'm sure that I was acting positively beastly, the way any devastated overly-dramatic show off child would act and though I don't remember any of the details of the ensuing conversation with my mom, I remember that she took me to a store that night and bought me the most beautiful reversible yellow Michael Jackson jacket you have ever seen. It was the color of duck feathers and made of cheap pleather but I wore it to school the next day as though Michael had worn it on the Pepsi tour himself.
The significance of this story is in the adult realization that this coat represents to me all the sacrafices made by my mother during times of great financial and emotional distress. I know my mom really well and I don't imagine that she was particularly happy to have to buy me a new coat...in fact she was probably a little annoyed that I was making such a big deal about it. She had 7 kids under the age of 12 by then and would have had to load us up in the car to take us all to the store to buy the jacket. It probably wasn't very expensive but still would have been an unexpected expense on an already tight budget. And still she did it, perhaps with some pain in her heart that she couldn't do more to make life a little easier for her children.
My mom is brave and strong and takes control of situations. She is not prone to much wallowing and has always taught me the value of compassion. When I was on my mission, a friend asked me to take care of her seven year old son for a year while she was incarcerated. When she asked me, I felt something stir within me that said, "yes". I told her that I would do it even though I was not even sure how I would get a job after my mission or where I was going to live. I knew this meant that my parents would have to help a lot. She asked, "what will your mom say?" and I was able to answer with clarity and conviction that I KNEW what my mom would say, "My mother will say yes." and it burned within me at that moment that I had been taught by "goodly parents". When I did call my mother to ask her if she could help, she said exactly what I knew she would say, "KaRyn, we are our brother's keeper. We can do this."
Today at church, so very far away from my home, I was again grateful for the sacrafices of my super-mom, those sacrafices that have helped to shape and define my life...I'm grateful for the woman that she is and the woman she has helped me to become. She is a creative, deep thinker who has great compassion for others. She is smart and capable and nurturing. She is, like all of us will be as mothers, imperfect...but she exemplifies Christ and teaches me with each new day how to be more like him and to forgive myself for my flaws while seeking higher ground. She is my dearest friend!
Happy Mother's Day Mom. I love you!