Courtney - posted on 04/16/2012 ( 2 moms have responded )
We were sweating before even making it to the mini-van parked in the drive-way. Although, as a stay at home mother to three children under the age of 8, when was I not a sweaty mess? Lugging my almost four year old in my arms because I hadn’t the time to put her shoes on, I holler out to my seven year old son, “Don’t get in yet! The seatbelt’s are going to be hot!”
It was just an average Colorado August Saturday of necessary errands to run with three young kids in tow who needed everything but the kitchen sink for school that week, minus the helping hands of a husband who again had guard duty for the Army. I was already exhausted, and the day had just barely started.
Opening the front passenger door to sit Samantha, my three year old, inside so that I can get her shoes on, I tell my oldest daughter Amanda, who is eight, to go ahead and open the sliding side door to the van in order to let the inside’s cool off. “Why do I have to do it?” She whines.
My six year old son volunteers, “I”ll do it!” But then, of course, not wanting to be upstaged, she shoves her brother aside, “Mom asked ME, not YOU.”
As I’m attempting to tie Samantha’s shoes and lamenting over the dying trend of Velcro, Amanda whines again, “I am NOT getting in that thing.” I can almost see the heat waves draft outside the door. Brandin is excited, “Me first! Me first!” And proceeds to climb in and take over his favorite spot.
Despite the heat, the arguing two older children, and it taking way too long for me to jumble with the car seat for Samantha, we are finally prepared to get moving. From one impossible feat to the next .. Walmart – oh sweet Jesus, here we come.
As I strap myself in to Amanda’s continued whining, “Why does he always get that seat, it’s not fair!” I stop for a brief second just to catch my breath and whisper a silent, “Oh dear God, help me.”
Brandin pipes up, “Because I am the co-captain, right Captain Mama?!”
Oh great. I feel the heavy oppression of entertaining my children when I have absolutely nothing left to give – that moment of total and complete depletion of anything resembling a care-free, joyful and creative mother. When it is all that I can do just to get up … and breathe.
My son, from the very first week we brought home the new mini-van, had created the illusion of this van being his space-ship. He would sit in the seat right behind me and had, over time, collected “navigation” tools which were, of course, neatly tucked and organized in the large pocket behind the driver’s seat. He navigated, I drove as instructed.
But, on days like today, I just didn’t have the energy. It was over 95 degrees outside, I felt like a single mother despite being married, and had gone on so long without any contact with the “real” outside world or any resemblance of a romantic kinship with the man I loved that I was, honestly put, totally and completely void of anything left but the physical strength to move my two feet.
“Not today, Bubba,” I said, without glancing back at him in my rear-view mirror. I, of course, didn’t have the heart to see his disappointment.
He acted as if he didn’t hear me, “Co-captian to Captain, prepare space-ship for take-off! Check for flight parts ready for go!”
Again, with a sigh, “Bubba, honey, not today. Mommy’s tired.”
He refused to hear me, “Flight parts, steering wheel – check, check! Co-captain to captain – are all paths cleared?”
I’m now at my end of patience. I just want to get the errands done and get back home to the air conditioning and the mac and cheese I’ll likely make, even though I’ll feel guilty about the processed cheese, “Bubba, I said, not today!”
Then, from the backseat … in a slow, almost muffled, and deeply painful little boy voice, “But Mommy … today we have to find Menonita – we HAVE too!”
The emotion in his voice stops me in my selfish tracks. I look into the mirror, I see his face littered with concern and passion, “Menonita?” I ask.
He just nods, his lower lip is out – his eyes filled with worry. I don’t know what Menonita is, I’ve never even heard it before – but his voice and his face tell me that for some reason, It is very important to him that we find this strange place.
“Captain to Co-Captain, all systems in place, CHECK!” His heart renews my strength.
For the next three years, I played Captain to my little boys co-captain and we set out, on course, each time, to seek out Menonita. I never asked where it was, or from where the idea came – or even why it was so important that we find it. I guess I just felt like he knew what he was doing and I needed to let him do it. It was kind of like why I never asked why any of my children colored outside of the lines, or made up their own rules to games.
He eventually grew out of his search for Menonita, even though we still have a mini-van, albeit it’s been traded several times over the last ten years. We never actually “found” Menonita. And we never talked about Menonita again.
Until Easter Day this year. Seven years after we stopped playing our game.
It has always been a tradition, since my children could all read, that I create a Treasure Hunt for their Easter baskets. There is always a plastic egg put in plain sight in their bedrooms, for right when they wake up in the morning, and there are usually about 10 subsequent clues that they must figure out to get to the next, which will eventually lead them to their hidden Easter basket.
This year … was the first year that I did not have all of my babies at home. My oldest, Amanda, had left home. I had absolutely no desire to do the treasure hunt … and I justified it by telling myself that my kids were growing up, they were all teenagers now – and of course, wouldn’t care.
I’d gone out and bought everything for Brandin and Samantha’s Easter baskets, for despite my not thinking they’d want the Treasure Hunt, as a mom – I couldn’t bring myself to not, at the very least, give them baskets. I had everything still in bags in the back of my car when my daughter, Samantha, asked me the night before, “You’re doing our Treasure Hunt still, right?”
That was all that it took. I was writing clues in less than two minutes.
As I began to write my son’s clues .. suddenly, and without warning, Menonita came to thought. I wondered if he remembered it from so many years ago. I wondered, now – all these years later – if he knew what Menonita had meant to me.
The unknown that we set ourselves to seek in faith, regardless of the evidence it exists. The moment we love because to give of ourselves is more important than what we ache to receive. The hope we each have, all our lives, that something greater than who we are is out there. The reality that true meaning rarely lies in the actual “thing” but in our heart-felt journey towards it.
It was at that moment, I realized … all these years later – it was actually ME who needed Menonita.
I began to write his clues based on memories of his own childhood. The first novel we read together, when he harnessed the self-esteem to read a-loud. And … Menonita. I placed the little plastic egg in the pocket behind the driver’s seat .. and I had no idea if he would recall it.
He found his basket before Samantha did, and as he carried it into the living room where I sat, waiting, I smiled and said, “So .. you remembered Menonita.”
He cocked his teenage head, his bright blue eyes lit up, and with more knowledge than a sixteen year old young man should ever have he said, “Of course I did. And I’m proud of you for remembering it too.”
Mothers will travel a journey unlike any other in this world where the lessons we lend our heart and souls to are written in the spirits of our children. It takes a lifetime to listen. And to listen well.
May you find your Menonita always in the love of your children – and in your own faith of who you are and what you mean to them. For there will be times you question this, moments of doubt and guilt – every time you question if you did your best, and every time you fear the worst for them.
My six year old son sought faith as a child. At sixteen, he asked of me the same.
The greatest lessons a mother ever learns are those written on the hearts of her children.