The sound of little giggles abruptly caught my attention, hinting at the mischief only a mother could recognize so quickly. A wave of panic swept through me as I turned to see my little girl balancing precariously on top of a wobbly chair. My thoughts urgently sought the advice of my mental guru. Within seconds my Mother’s wisdom surfaced, providing me with a memory and an answer.
I drew a deep breath and glided toward to my daughter. With one big swoop I snatched her up, swung her around and gave her a big kiss. Then I sat her down, displaying the most concerned, guilt-driven expression I could muster, and proceeded to explain how standing on chairs was dangerous. It was a serious, heartfelt moment. She bared a big, sweet smile, crawled over to my lap and lifted up my shirt to blow on my belly.
Maybe she was a little young to fully comprehend such discipline, but she certainly knew how to give a good raspberry!
“I’ll get this mommy thing down,” I mused. “One day at a time.”
I redirected my child into more appropriate play activities and began to mull over my mother’s signature motto, “One day at a time.” Sometimes it had seemed like there was a caption bubble floating over her head that lit up with those words, following her wherever she went. To me those words became a reminder, a subtle cue to always remain calm.
I dropped into the kitchen chair, and began to sip my lukewarm coffee. I stared absently in Haley’s direction, watching her play while my thoughts drifted away to distant memories of my own childhood. I remembered being a little girl playing in our orchard. Though it was a good distance away, I could see my mother clearly through the kitchen window. Wanting to catch her attention, I climbed up a big walnut tree and began to wave. She waved back. I thought she would be even more proud of me if climbed up to the highest branch to wave to her.
Mom must have been proud, because she stopped what she was doing. She waved back with a smile and asked me to come inside for some cookies. I realize now that I’d missed the panic in her eyes, and the quiver in her tone that had sounded so calm at the time. Her brilliant plan to lure me out of the tree worked. Had she yelled, I probably would have become frightened and may have fallen and been seriously injured.
My mother’s soft, effective lecture was delivered with a glass of milk and cookies. The look of worry and concern in her eyes penetrated my soul. I promised I would never try that stunt again.
My mother’s wisdom became the teaching tool and my guidance when responding to my own child during moments of inevitable danger.
When my daughter first came into this world, twenty-one months ago, I clung to the textbook standards of what to expect. Even though my own mother had had easy childbirths, I planned on having at least twenty hours of labor to prepare myself for introducing a new person into the world. When the critical hour came, I found myself alone in our secluded mountain home, unable to reach over my enormous belly to get snowshoes on my feet. I couldn’t walk further than our back porch. I stood there, in the dead of winter, with only my dog to commiserate with. My husband was at least an hour away and my neighbors were unreachable. Prayer gave me strength, but there was only one person I wanted to talk to. And right then I needed her more than I ever needed her in my life.
“I’m scared, mom!”
“Take a deep breath. Everything’s going to be okay.”
“But this doesn’t feel right. I’m in the middle of nowhere, with snow up to my knees. What if he doesn’t get here in time? What if the roads are closed?” I cried.
“Take one moment at a time… and have faith,” her voice rang in my head.
I took another deep breath and tottered back inside. My nerves began to settle as I replaced my fear with faith. “Everything’s going to be alright,” I whispered aloud.
Besides Mom, only my animals were able to calm my nerves. I fed my injured jackrabbit and thought about the pleasant days of my youth. I was just a little girl when I found an injured bird in our orchard. Mom helped me clean its wound and nurture it back to health. When the bird finally recovered it escaped from its box before we had a chance to release it outside. Mom and I never had laughed so hard as when that silly bird looped all over the house, darting at our heads before finally making its exit out the door.
That amusing experience led to a lifetime of caring for wild animals, with Mom having taught me valuable lessons about nurturing and letting go. Even if I couldn’t save an animal, I could at least make it comfortable. My mother heroically assisted me in meeting these challenges, showing me how to do the best I could, while accepting the bad with the good. With my own impending motherhood, I was embarking on a new adventure, with a wonderful being that I could keep for my very own.
“I don’t know what to do with something that doesn’t have fur,” I joked to my mother.
A familiar voice responded in my head with her favorite adage, “One day at a time.”
My husband arrived just in time to take me to the hospital. Haley was born within the hour. When I held my beautiful blond-haired, blue-eyed little girl in my arms I cried with pure joy. She looked just like Mom.