Saturday, March 13, 2010
The Greatest Mother in the World
I saw The Greatest Mother in the World today. She came out of Starbucks with a tray of coffees in one hand, surrounded by four sons under the age of ten, one of whom was in hysterics in the other hand. He was screaming at the pitch of his lungs, hanging by one arm, arched backward, and the Greatest Mother in the World carried him and the coffees along, inching toward the car, her other three sons moving slowly along with her like scrap junkanoos. Her eyes were set on her car where at least two more children were waiting, and, I swear, a baby in the back seat, held by a stunned looking young woman who was probably the nanny. I knew she was the Greatest Mother in the World by the what she did not do. She did not yell at her screaming son. She did not hit him. She did not even scowl at him. She did not frown about her plight. She did not scapegoat the other children. She did not call out to a god for mercy. She did not smile apologetically at me. She just held her struggling son aloft by the wrist, Statue of Liberty style, inching forward until she got them all to the car with nary a word. When she wrestled him into one window of the car and he climbed out the other she did not freak out, she wrestled him back in again placid faced and apparently asked the oldest son to sit on him which he did, quietly, though I didn't hear any of them speak. In my family everyone would have been screaming at each other at this point. I already knew she was The Greatest Mother in the World when she got in the driver's seat, and her son reached out from the back seat to yank her ponytail. But it was confirmed and undeniably so when she did not turn around and slap him. I could see her calm face through the windshield and could tell that she did not even want to slap him. She was actually having a perfectly good day, she was fully present and in the moment, embracing the moment, not struggling against it, not struggling to embrace it either, just a picture of composure and acceptance, and I stared, trying not to stare. She started the car, adjusted her ponytail, cool, steady, riding the wave, no tirade of complaints to the nanny, no admonishments for the children, no lines on her face as she drove away. Being the narcissistic poet that I am, of course I was sure that the Universe, conspiring to give me what I need the way she always does, deliberately gave me a glimpse of The Greatest Mother in the World today, an image I can store away in my Archive of Inspirations. I will take these snapshots out and look at them whenever I begin to feel overwhelmed at being a new mother again at the age of 48. I will remember that good mothering is radical feminism in action. Three Cheers for the Greatest Mother in the World, I know she enjoyed the hell out of that coffee.