A new mom, just a year or so into all of the territory I had never walked before. A tired mom. Tired from tending to every detail, from wanting to do things just right, from learning to listen to my mom-gut that sometimes overrides the just-right. It was a winter night, and I tucked that Maggie into her crib, her blankets just so, covering her pink-jammied self. I said good night and turned to leave the room.
“Mommy?” she called as I was just making my way into a chair of quiet.
I turned and went right back into her room, probably stomping in some form or another. “Yes?” I say, irritation audible in my voice.
She said something through the barrier of her pacifier.
“What?” I asked, clear annoyance spilling into my tone.
She said it again, looking up at me, eyelashes batting, finger tapping her cheek.
I reached down and grabbed hold of the passy, yanking it out of her mouth. “What?” I repeat, punctuating the T emphatically. Frustration drove my bus. It was past bedtime. I was so ready to be done for the day.
Very calmly, little articulate Maggie repeats herself without the hindrance of her pacifier, “I need some pink stuff for my cheekies.”
In the cold, damp months of winter, little faces get red and chapped. We always put a pink, emollient solution on her rounded cheeks. Nighttime application provided lots of stillness to let the skin heal. That night, I forgot. She didn’t.
At the softness of her words, the gentleness of her request, the purity of her non-clock-keeping self, I was undone. My defenses down, and my heart put back into order in a two second interchange, tears stung my eyes.
That sacred moment beside Maggie’s crib has hovered into my thoughts so many times over the years. I shared it again with all of the kids just the other day. 20 years later, we term it #momfail. The ache of missing the point, of hurrying too fast, I relive it in each telling and each remembrance. Somehow, the holiness of it all teaches across time. The grace to redo, to stop, to look into a face and listen.
Aidan loves the story so much that he works the request into the conversation several times a day. In reading Odysseus’s tale, he repeats back to me two or three details of the story and somehow incorporates that Odysseus or Penelope or one of the wooers needs pink stuff for their cheekies. When Journey the dog is having a hard time because she wants to play, he tells me that she must need pink stuff for her cheekies. Every time, he speaks in his best Maggie toddler voice impression.
When I’m most frustrated that he is so 13-years old, so distractible and loud and busy, he says, “Mom? Mom? I need some pink stuff for my cheekies.” He taps his cheek and ensures that I look him in the face.
I’m undone all over again. Several times a day. I remember, and I don’t want to hurry. Lord, please help me not to miss the point.