Velveteen Mommies: Sanctified Suffering in Motherhood
- Thursday, December 01, 2005
Our pain threshold definitely inches up a few notches when we become mothers. We’re tough chicks. Strangely enough, no one has yet to fashion a mom superhero to counteract Spidey and Superman. Can you picture it?
Faster than a speeding toddler, more powerful than a loaded diaper,
Able to leap in front of oncoming cars in a single bound.
Look! Up in the Sky! It’s a bird, it’s a plane…It’s SuperMom!
Yes, it’s Supermom, strange visitor form another planet who came to earth with powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men. Supermom, who can change the course of mighty teenagers; take care of bloody noses, barf, and bowel movements with her bare hands; and who, disguised as an overworked homemaker, fights the never-ending battle for truth, justice, and her own way.
Sigh. I could use a superhero like that. Sheesh, I could use a spandex suit like that. My pain threshold may be higher, but my daily exercise limit is much lower. Three rounds of pregnancy, potty training with M&Ms, and the excess amount of time sitting in my van shuttling others to afterschool practice has wreaked some serious havoc with my pre-baby bod. I’m sporting the same mom-physique I once naively vowed never to possess. When Victoria’s Secret accidentally sends me a catalogue, I just laugh. And then I cry, because I have yet to discover her secret – although I bet it includes a potpourri of liposuction, tummy tucks, botox, and breast augmentations.
My own secret is that I would love to look as good on the outside as Sophia Loren at age seventy; however, in my heart, I know I would rather be like the Velveteen Rabbit, worn-out but well loved.
We named one of our daughters after my best friend from Junior high, Katie Baldwin. From grades seven to eleven, I spent a lot of time at Katie’s house, which was just around the corner, through the neighbor’s backyard. While my own family’s oddities annoyed me, the Baldwin family quirks were both endearing and entertaining. I have fond memories of watching her dad create a painting, of listening to her brother regale us with his skiing adventures (and his alleged girlfriend adventures), of teasing her sisters, and of talking with her mother.
Katie’s mom, Helen, possessed the ability to maintain chaos with gentleness and graciousness. Among other things, she spent her time mowing the lawn, sewing ballet costumes, hauling kids to piano lessons in their big old blue suburban, and listening to the adolescent ramblings of her children’s friends. She and I spent a lot of time chatting over grilled cheese sandwiches and Tang. A multi-talented homemaker, she was a woman I deeply admired.
One day I asked Katie about the ever-present Ace bandage around Helen’s left arm. Her answer was the last thing I expected: "She’s in remission from breast cancer." I couldn’t believe it. She seemed so healthy, so vibrant, so alive, and so at peace.
After recovering from the initial surprise of Helen’s health situation, I succumbed to the complacency common to a self-absorbed teenager. Katie and I graduated, and we all went our separate ways. A year later I received news that Helen had died from breast cancer. I was devastated, and I determined to attend her funeral. At her memorial service, there was a modest display set up to honor her life. On a table toward the front of the sanctuary was a picture of Helen, and next to it, her Bible. I have yet to see another Bible in such a sorry condition. To say that it was well used is an understatement. The thing was trashed. The leather cover was faded and discolored, the edges bent completely over the binding. The pages were creased and folded from a lifetime of use. Helen had accomplished a difficult feat: She had worn out a Bible.
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