By Heather O.
My sister in law called the other day. We were discussing Christmas plans, and since, you know, the economy is collapsing at our feet, and airline travel totally sucks, we were trying to think of alternate scenarios that did NOT involve me and my dearest eternal companion lugging 2 children and a bazillion pieces of luggage burstin’ with swag across the country on crowded and quickly going bankrupt so they give you jack-squat airlines. She suggested that we all buy our own meal at a fancy restaurant, and have Grandma babysit all the kids.
I was totally on board. (And seriously, y’all should be jealous of my fantastic SIL who has figured out a way to simplify Christmas, the holiday that gives my DH a migraine 3 months in advance.) “This way”, I said, “We can talk about stuff without the kids around, and show that we have thoughts on something besides diapers!”
She was quiet for a second and said, jokingly, “Well, I don’t, but you go ahead and discuss whatever you are thinking about!”
We laughed, but there was a kernal of truth in what she was saying. Mothers only have thoughts on diapers, because diapers are pretty dang important. Diapers are what needs to be done.
One of my favorite books is Barbara Kingsolver’s “The Poisonwood Bible”. It’s a story of a missionary’s family tumultous experience trying to convert the people of the Congo during a tumultuous political time. There are many chapters told from differing viewpoints, which, as any body who has read “Breaking Dawn” knows, is a tough thing to pull off well. Kingsolver does it beautifully, though, and there are a couple of haunting chapters from the viewpoint of the mother, who is desperately just trying to keep her family of 4 girls alive. Her family knows nothing of her sacrifices, of the lengths she has to go through, just to furnish the most basic necessities, until she herself falls ill to malaria. She also talks about how she was so completely unaware of what was happening in Africa at the time, ignorant to he dramatic events playing out on the world stage.
She was not ignorant of these events because she was stupid. She was ignorant because she was living in isolation, and because they ultimately meant little to her. Her primary focus was on keeping her family alive.
We read this in bookgroup, and an older woman, a grandmother, said that she knows how that feels. Where was she in the 60s, when the world was supposedly on fire? She was at home, baking her bread, keeping her family alive, dealing with a family bigger than her husband’s salary, paying off school loans, doing what needed to be done to get through the day.
We are facing some serious stuff in our country today. Serious stuff that has even my husband, the world’s biggest optimist, freaking out. Some day, I wonder if my children will ask me what I was doing during the economic crises of 2008, when the dow dipped however hundreds of points, and we teetered on the edge of what, according to Sarah Palin, could be the next Great Depression.
I’ll tell them that I woke up, helped my son with his homework before school, took him to piano, made bread from the flour I have stored over the years, took a nap, went grocery shopping, cleaned the house, and did the laundry. Not as dramatic as needing to travel 5 miles to fetch a pail of water, or take quanine to avoid contracting malaria, but still, I am paying attention to the necessities of life.
It’s what mothers do. Even when the dow is crashing. Even when democrats and republicans play with our tax dollars and decide our country’s economic fate. A mother still has to make sure her kid has diapers. Even when the world is on fire.
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