The old adage that the only certainties of life are death and taxes missed the another one we cannot deny, we all have a mother. Just as we may fight death or be well prepared for the end of life, hate our tax codes or welcome the loopholes, we may adore our mothers or conversely have horror stories to fill social media and hours of chats over wine. Yet we cannot deny that we all came into this world carrying the blood, the nourishment, the cells of one woman. What happens after the moment when we take our first breath and each one after, may create complications, still the truth remains. Without her, we are nothing, we literally aren’t.
I have dug into my relationship with my now deceased mother for most of my adult life, searching for the buried treasure, trying desperately to discover the mom I wanted, needed. Therapy, distance, boundaries, ultimately acceptance of who she was slowed the hunt, kept me present with her while she was here. I still wonder, I still search, I still wish. Forgiveness changes the urgency though, twisting my random musing into the realm of what I would do with lottery winnings or how would I change if I moved to a 3rd world country, ideas I know are fantasy that require no emotional investment. I have mostly, probably as much as humanly possible, forgiven my mother for being the mom she was and not the mom I needed. I have learned to be grateful that she taught me to be the mom I am. So I miss her sometimes. I am no longer sure if I miss the real mom or my dream one but still odd moments of wistfulness appear, a desire to share some news, a bit of hurt or a wonderful joy. The dream rarely goes any further than that, I don’t play out the conversation. Yet at almost 53 years old, I can admit I want my mom in times of trouble. Death, taxes and mom.
I sat in the dining room of the apartment my Arrow shares with his fiancé this weekend, they invited Chef and I to lunch. A banquet of frozen pizza and delightful salad, prepared on their turf, at their table, their rules. The setting required that we acknowledge they are adults. We weren’t asked to leave our shoes at the door but it was unspoken that our parenting needed to stay there. We could be mom and dad if we accept them as closer to equals. We agreed to the invitation for lunch as well as the other the invitations, the ones to build some bridges using new and old bits and pieces, to allow them to construct their side how ever they choose and meet in the middle. My Arrow has some little life changes, some big life events, some random musings he wanted to tell his mom. He decided that after distance and establishing boundaries that he would try again. We brought gifts of bread and grace, the opportunity for a fresh start. Because everyone needs a mom, whether their own or a surrogate, they just need mom. I knew it was only a matter of time with him, that he would be back. I knew the ticking, the tocking would not last so long I would want to rebuild the whole bridge, compromise everything just to have that relationship back. I know my child, he knows his mom. Death, taxes and mom.
I accepted another invitation, the opportunity to bake cookies with an adult mother-daughter duo. Knowing the photographer for all of the amazing shots that show up on this blog would be there was an added bonus. The expectation was not that I really bake, more just that I could do as I needed, write in the other room, rest, find sanctuary. The mere act of issuing this invitation is mind blowing to me, sharing something that personal, opening your childhood up to another, offering your parents to one who is now orphaned, sharing your moments of new memories with another, this is holy stuff. Janet is like this with me. I still haven’t figured out what I have done to deserve her friendship, how I can possibly reciprocate. But she isn’t keeping score either. I didn’t write there, I tried a couple of times but felt drawn instead to be present, to be among them. If only I could go into all social situations with my laptop, I would be accepting invitations daily. Hiding behind the keyboard, observing, that is my safe place. Yet I felt pulled away, pulled into the kitchen, leaving the couch and blanket and cozy escape to enter into that kitchen. The thing is, these people have no reason to include me, they have no reason to trust me, they could have been more careful with me, more wary. Yet they exuded grace, real honest to God grace filled that home as surely as the sweet vanilla sugar goodness of the yeast cookies baking when we arrived. I listened, I watched, I devoured the interactions between them all even as I participated. At the table over a simple lunch of homemade soup that we brought from Janet’s home and cornbread quickly whipped up, the blessing softly beautifully lifted up by her father, we dined together. I lifted them up silently, joy too deep to express as we warmed our bodies with soup and my soul with this little stolen time of mom and dad, family. Shared recipes, a determined search for the one that reminds me of my own mother, dedicated time wandering through photo choices and fixing sizes to ensure they show up correctly, I absorbed. I ate cookies that from the moment they touched my lips created a memory I knew was a forever one. I experienced hours that will be in my “cherished moments” memory box always. Like that extra sprinkle of sugar that sends the cookies from good to great, I was given the gift of approval, the gift of affirmation in a quiet talk with Janet’s father after we settled the artwork questions. He spoke words to me that every child longs to hear from their father. His soft voice carried weight, sent me to tears, could he know how holy that moment was? Emmanuel, God with us, in that office, around that desk. Because they had invited God into the day as well, I wasn’t the only guest in the home.
I realized that they asked absolutely nothing of me, I brought nothing, I gave nothing while there. Maybe the first time ever, I went empty handed, open handed. I stopped being busy and giving and distracted, I allowed them to fill me. I cannot imagine a greater example of what God wants from me, what He longs to offer me. This taste was enticing, a complete surrender to the day, to open my soul and heart completely to the One who truly has grace like vanilla sugar cookies for me, all year long. To arrive broken enough that I accept sanctuary, no longer hiding along the edges, seeking warmth from a blanket instead of His glory. I didn’t have to build a bridge or establish boundaries, I just had to say yes and all of this was open to me. Death, Taxes, mom. And dad. Most certainly God.
As I consider the fullness of the day, I am struct by the need to consider how I extend invitations. When I welcome others into my home, do I offer grace and sanctuary? When I welcome others into relationship with me, is the same true? I think the secret may be to ask God first and then fill out the rest of the guest list. Holiness will follow, it will fill the air with cookies baking and no one will worry about death and taxes. Relationship established from conception with our mother, lived out with our Father. No need to search further.