For years my mom has been saying, “Janet, how did I get to be so old?” I get it now. Yesterday at 10:30 a.m. she called me and said, “I’m celebrating the fact that at this moment I’ve been a mother for 70 years.” Somehow that backhanded blessing was easier to hear than others. Mom’s been a mom for 70 years.
It reminded me of a favorite short story called “Eleven” by Sandra Cisneros. In the story a young girl laments the fact that her insensitive teacher puts an ugly, smelly sweater on her desk that’s not hers. She tries to inch that sweater off to the farthest edge away from her. It’s not hers. It’s not hers. Why would her teacher think that ugly, smelly old sweater was hers?
To make matters worse it’s her birthday. Her eleventh birthday. And she’s holding back tears because she knows that 11-year-old girls are so much more mature than 10-year-old ones. (My grandson Jovani announced earlier this month that at 11 he is now a “pre-teen.” LOL.)
While the teacher later corrects her mistake, the Cisneros’s character reflects a profundity I’ve never forgotten. When we are eleven, we are still 10. We are still 9. We are still 8. We still are that person who was those ages and had those experiences and feelings.
So, while I am now yes, 70, I am still the mom wildly cheering her kids as they walk high school and graduation commencement stages. I am still the brand-new teacher trying to figure out how to teach space to fourth and fifth graders. I am still the journalist covering the city and cops beat. I am still the bride walking down the aisle to her handsome husband-to-be. I am still that high school senior looking across the dance floor, thinking, “Hmm, he is really good looking.”
People say age is relative. Perhaps that has something to do with the fact that we collect these family and friend memories that pile up into the years that label us–all those blood and adopted relatives of ours. They help make us who we are.
Rebekah, pictured here with Craig and me after she’d thrown me a wonderful semi-surprise birthday party with folks dear to us, said, “Mom, you really have some good friends. You’ve always had good friends.”
So true. And, I’ve decided that if 70 means I have 70 or more people who love me, I am blessed. Friends and family all piled together into memories that have made my mom’s 70 years of mothering a very good life for me. Truly, I am blessed.
Janet McHenry is her mom and dad’s firstborn of five kids, wife to Craig, mom to four pretty good kids, and nana of ten perfect grandkiddos. She writes in such a way to encourage others to keep #lookingup by pursuing a relationship with God through the study of his Word and prayer. You can learn more about her writing and speaking ministry at janetmchenry.com, including her online masterclass Prayer School, her writing retreats, and her life coaching business.