I am preparing lunch early one weekday morning, as the new light slowly infuses the kitchen. I began this routine years ago, deciding it was far more economical to bring my lunch than buy it everyday.
The apartment is quiet. My partner sleeps on in the next room. I fill the containers, one by one, with chili. Some will be consumed this week; others will be consigned to the freezer to wait their turn.
And, then, I flash on an early image of my mother. She stands, in her bathrobe, in a dark winter kitchen, doing much the same as I am now – fixing lunches, but for 4 children, in advance of the school day.
It’s the late 60’s. I am up early, and, so, get a glimpse of how lunch really happens. As if I were spying on “Santa Claus” placing presents beneath the tree.
I don’t recall thanking her. In fact, I don’t recall much of that morning, aside from this image. This image may be what Cathy Smith Bowers, Poet Laureate of North Carolina, called an “abiding image”. In her wonderful, illuminating poetry workshops at the Haden Institute a few years back, Cathy spoke of images that are imbued with layers of personal significance. They can be thoughtfully, almost prayerfully, explored as the touchstones of poem-making.
Granted, this is not a poem. But it is one way to acknowledge the one, and therefore the multitude, of gestures of silent service that my mother performed.
Now, turning 91 this year, Mother depends on the service of many. Some are health care professionals who are with her day and night. And, then, her siblings and close relatives. And, we, her children.
Mom and I were talking recently about raising us 4. She said it was sometimes difficult, but always worthwhile. And, this, to me, marks something about our life together, growing up.
Mom was never the martyr: “You’d think that with all I’ve done for you kids…”.
She was never the attention seeker: “Look at all the wonderful things I do for you kids…”
She was a steady, willing, loving presence. May I be the same for her now.
“The place to which God calls you is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet. ”