My mother taped the poem inside a cupboard in the kitchen when I was just five or six. It stayed there until we moved, and was carefully peeled off and re-taped inside the next kitchen cupboard, and the next, and the next, through every move of my childhood.
By the time I was grown, it was curling at the edges, fading and speckled with age. But still, it hung there, flashing itself each time she opened the door and reached for a plate.
(My hands were busy through the day,
I didn’t have much time to play
The little games you asked me to,
I didn’t have much time for you …)
My mother’s hands were certainly busy with four children to care for: mountains of laundry to do and endless dirty floors to be swept. There were meals to cook, piano lessons to get to, ripped jeans to patch at the knees. There were birthday cakes to make and science projects to help with.
No, I suppose there weren’t many “little games” we played, amidst all that. I don’t recall her sitting on the floor with us to put together a puzzle. And though she’d sew sweet little outfits for our dollies, I can’t remember that she kneeled down alongside us as we tended to them. She may have, and I’ve simply lost the memories to the passage of time. It hardly seems to matter either way: if there wasn’t time to play as often as she’d have liked, it never lessened the constancy of her love, or her presence. (Life is short, the years rush past,
A little child grows up so fast.
No longer is he at your side
With precious secrets to confide…)
I talk to my mother every day, about everything. I share so much, with so little filter, that I wonder sometimes what a stranger would think of all the things I have confided over the years. I’m quite certain I’d be lost without her presence. When my own first child arrived, it was my mother who quietly countered my anxieties with a calmness earned from 30 years of raising four children through illnesses and lost toys and first heartbreaks and bad report cards.
“You’re doing everything he needs,” she’d say, when I wondered tearfully if my newborn son was getting all the things the exhaustive baby books decreed were imperative. “You love him, that’s what he needs most.”
(The picture books are put away.
There are no longer games to play…
My hands, once busy, now are still.
The days are long and hard to fill…)
I copied the poem and pasted it up in my own kitchen when my son was still a baby, long before his sister arrived. A reminder, I told myself, that this season of life passes quickly, to make the most of each day.
But laundry still needs doing, birthday cakes still need baking. I balance the must-do’s and the want-to-do’s against the always racing clock as well as I can, like all mothers: imperfectly.
When the poem’s urgency tickles at my heart and I feel worry pressing in, I remember my mother – busy in her mothering, constant in her love – and feel reassured that I’m getting it more right than wrong. And I hope that when my mother catches sight of that poem in her cupboard, and feels a stirring of second-guessing, she will know this above all else: that I could not have asked for more.
She loved me, and that’s what I needed most.
For the YMC Voices of Motherhood 2015 contest, we asked mothers from all over Canada to submit their story based on the theme “Stages of Motherhood: Past, Present, or Future.”
We received over 100 thought provoking stories that made us laugh, cry, and nod our heads in agreement. Our judges had their work cut out for them to narrow it down to the Top 10.