In honor of Mother’s Day, here is a piece I wrote a few years back:
I was a working mom. The kind of mom who juggled career and family, deadlines and diapers. The kind of mom who hoofed it in heels and hose, with a stack of essays cradled in one arm and a hip-hugging toddler in the other. I would like to say there were others like me. Somehow, it seemed I was the only mother to arrive at my daughter’s preschool so professionally dressed.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s not that I regretted my sharp suits and trendy bags. It’s just that I couldn’t help but gaze longingly as my stay-at-home counterparts collected their children in smart workout gear and with swinging pony tails, sporting a fresh-from-the-gym vigor in their cheeks.
I just wanted to fit in.
So, imagine my delight when I learned that I would be grading final exams at home on the day of the scheduled Mother’s Day festivities. This was it! This was the day when I would slide up to the school and blend in with the best of them. After careful consideration, I decided on black yoga slacks, a matching turtleneck sweater and a brand new pair of blinding white tennis shoes. A blue-checkered lumberjack flannel sealed the deal.
Or should I say, sealed my fate?
It didn’t take long for me to realize my fashion blunder. Colorful balloons and blooming paper flowers lined a picturesque pathway to the classroom. Confetti lay adoringly at my feet. Streamers hailed my entrance. And when I stepped into the room, I was dumbfounded to see dozens of preschool mommies, daintily sipping punch, wearing their very best silky dresses, heels and hose, powdered, perfumed and prettied up to perfection.
What had I been thinking?
There was no time to turn and run, because my daughter was immediately upon me, tugging my arm excitedly and pulling me to my “Queen for a Day” seat, where I would dine on shortbread cookies and a heaping helping of humble pie.
The other mothers were much too gracious to comment on my attire.
And Mrs. “C” pretended not to notice the mortification burning my cheeks when she delicately pinned a pink and purple tissue-paper corsage to my flanneled chest.
And certainly my daughter did not hesitate to smile proudly when the room mom approached to snap a picture of us so we wouldn’t forget this very special day.
Not to worry. This one, I’ll remember.
A thunderous headache followed me home and jabbed me every time I recalled the embarrassment of that morning. How could I have made such a mistake? I was so ashamed that I resolved to roll up the experience in a tight little bundle and toss it away to the farthest reaches of my memory. I told myself that this was just a “little thing.” And little things mean nothing.
But, the photo arrived soon after, pasted into a construction paper card that professed its love and thanks in my girl’s very best print.
There we were—my daughter and me, sitting together, her arm draped across my shoulders, her dazzling smile, her precious face framed by heartbreaking, corkscrew curls.
She embraced me, showcased and loved me just for being there. And those big hugs and gentle tugs, handmade cards and paper corsages, all so lovingly crafted, reminded me of what and who are really important.
Little things mean something, after all.