Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Invisible Mom

Invisible - It all began to make sense, the blank stares, the lack of
response, the way one of the kids will walk into the room while I'm on the
phone and ask to be taken to the store. Inside I'm thinking, 'Can't you see
I'm on the phone?' Obviously not; no one can see if I'm on the phone, or
cooking, or sweeping the floor, or even standing on my head in the corner,
because no one can see me at all. I'm invisible; 'The Invisible Mom.'

Some days I am only a pair of hands, nothing more: Can you fix this? Can you
tie this? Can you open this? Some days I'm not a pair of hands; I'm not even
a human being. I'm a clock to ask, 'What time is it?' I'm a satellite guide
to answer, 'What number is the Disney Channel?' I'm a car to order, 'Right
around 5:30, please. 'I was certain that these were the hands that once held
books and the eyes that studied history and the mind that graduated summa
cum laude ­ but now they had disappeared into the peanut butter, never to be
seen again.

She's going, she's going, and she's gone!

One night, a group of us were having dinner, celebrating the return of a
friend from England. Janice had just gotten back from a fabulous trip, and
she was going on and on about the hotel she stayed in. I was sitting there,
looking around at the others all put together so well. It was hard not to
compare and feel sorry for myself as I looked down at my out-of-style dress;
it was the only thing I could find that was clean.

My unwashed hair was pulled up in a hair clip and I was afraid I could
actually smell peanut butter in it. I was feeling pretty pathetic, when
Janice turned to me with a beautifully wrapped package, and said, 'I brought
you this.' It was a book on the great cathedrals of Europe. I wasn't exactly
sure why she'd given it to me until I read her inscription: 'To Charlotte,
with admiration for the greatness of what you are building when no one

In the days ahead I would read - no, devour - the book. And I would discover
what would become for me, four life-changing truths, after which I could
pattern my work: No one can say who built the great cathedrals ­we have no
record of their names. These builders gave their whole lives for a work they
would never see finished. They made great sacrifices and expected no credit.
The passion of their building was fueled by their faith that the eyes of God
saw everything.

A legendary story in the book told of a rich man who came to visit the
cathedral while it was being built, and he saw a workman carving a tiny bird
on the inside of a beam. He was puzzled and asked the man, 'Why are you
spending so much time carving that bird into a beam that will be covered by
the roof? No one will ever see it.' And the workman replied, 'Because God

I closed the book, feeling the missing piece fall into place. It was almost
as if I heard God whispering to me, 'I see you, Charlotte. I see the
sacrifices you make every day, even when no one around you does. No act of
kindness you've done, no sequin you've sewn on, no cupcake you've baked, is
too small for Me to notice and smile over. You are building a great
cathedral, but you can't see right now what it will become.'

At times, my invisibility feels like an affliction. But it is not a disease
that is erasing my life. It is the cure for the disease of my own
self-centeredness. It is the antidote to my strong, stubborn pride. I keep
the right perspective when I see myself as a great builder. As one of the
people who show up at a job that they will never see finished, to work on
something that their name will never be on. The writer of the book went so
far as to say that no cathedrals could ever be built in our lifetime because
there are so few people willing to sacrifice to that degree.

When I really think about it, I don't want my son to tell the friend he's
bringing home from college for Thanksgiving, 'My Mom gets up at 4 in the
morning and bakes homemade pies, and then she hand bastes a turkey for three
hours and presses all the linens for the table.' That would mean I'd built a
shrine or a monument to myself. I just want him to want to come home. And
then, if there is anything more to say to his friend, to add, 'you're gonna
love it there.'

As mothers, we are building great cathedrals. We cannot be seen if we're
doing it right. And one day, it is very possible that the world will marvel,
not only at what we have built, but at the beauty that has been added to the
world by the sacrifices of invisible women.



Myra said...

This is beautiful Peggy. Thank you for sharing it. I really enjoyed seeing the pictures of your mother and your son. You are very lucky to still have here and your grandmother in your life.

Peggy said...

Thank you Myra.... I don't get to spend as much time with her as I used to, but we are close. She's walking in the March of Dimes with me.... 5 miles... She's a trooper! And, I'm so proud of my son. He's going away for college this year. Getting on a college track team.

Sheryl said...

This story is so true! Peggy, I've been tagged with some interesting questions and now want to tag you with them, too. Please see my blog for the questions. Thanks!