My mother’s jewelry box was a product of the 80’s. It was large, luxurious and covered in a floral print. I remember watching her get ready for fancy events at the vanity in her walk-in closet, opening the box to pick out the perfect gold tennis bracelet or necklace. Those were the days when our finances were more than stable; we lived in a large home with a pool area and a putting green and limos took us to the airport. That was all we knew for the first decade of our lives.
Finances can be shakey ground, and our comfortable life was shattered by the equivalent of a financial earthquake. We found ourselves packed in a U-Haul and headed to a fresh start south of the Mason Dixon line. My brave mother showed no disappointment at being moved from our mansion to a double-wide trailer, so we followed her lead. Though I know that she must have had her moments, she never let on that the drastic life change affected her for more than a moment. She made the most of our prefabricated home and absorbed much of the distress and disappointment in that season of our lives.
She worked as a janitor at the Catholic School to help pay our way through a private education that we most certainly could not afford. She faithfully and compulsively cleaned homes to make money on the side, so that we could continue our activities like soccer or cheerleading. When even that was not enough to help make ends meet, my mother opened that floral jewelry box of hers yet again, only this time to part with her pretties.
I clearly remember sitting in our mini-van watching her fight back tears as she walked into a pawn shop to trade in some of those beautiful gold tennis bracelets she used to wear to the high-dollar conventions and parties.
Our finances evened back out over time, as they often do; however, despite all the gifts and displays of motherly affection that have come since, that trip to the pawn shop will forever be to me the most beautiful picture of the strength of maternal love.
My mother is far from perfect, but even her imperfections often stem out of the ferocity of maternal love. She can hold a grudge for record lengths of time, an outworking of her often biased siding with her children. She buys us and our children far too many needless gifts, an outpouring of the depth of her love that our small homes and closets cannot possibly hold.
Though I have read many books on mothering and listened to countless seminars and speakers, the most significant things I know about maternal love did not come from such resources. They came from watching my mother in the trenches of life, taking often ugly situations and doling them out as beautifully as humanly possible.
Maternal love absorbs as much of the shock of life as possible, leaving only the lighter bumps to be felt by her kin. Maternal love sacrifices beyond what is reasonable, goes to great and sometimes irrational lengths to provide a sense of security and protection for its own. Maternal love is simultaneously fierce and ferocious and soft and stable. Maternal love makes the most out of every situation, even the least desirable, for the sake of its household.
Maternal love is far from perfect; it, too, has been heavily affected by the fall. It has its limits and its dark sides (Texas cheerleader mom; need I say more?). That being said, it is one of the strongest remnants of the sacrificial love God originally planted in the heart of humanity that I have ever experienced.
I thank God for a mother whose love sent her to dark places and pawn shops on behalf of her children. Even more so, I thank the perfect Father for a world of imperfect mothers who spend their lives living out slivers of divine love for their own.
Happy Mother’s Day to all women, whether they be physical mothers to their own children or not. You have implanted deep within you the fierce stuff of maternal love, whether you have children or not. The world is a better place because of the power of that maternal love.
To God be the glory for being the penultimate parent and for implanting into the heart of women rugged strips of his ferocious love.