In high school, I remember coming home to exactly what I didn’t want to be.
“Guess what I did today?” mom would say, which was my cue to follow her to whatever housekeeping feat she had conquered while I was away.
Depending on the day, the downstairs windows had been washed, or curtains ironed. Laundry for all athletes might have been bleached, socks all sorted. Floors likely had been mopped. And dinner was always bubbling in the oven, made from groceries purchased well before dawn. I was seeing the result of someone not sitting down for even two minutes all day.
Do you want to know my response at seventeen?
Suffice it to say that there was plenty of internal eye-rolling, non-stop fidgeting, and some fake appreciation while I casually checked my phone. Just kidding, I didn’t have a phone in 1986, but if I had, that’s when I would have totally checked it.
I remember wanting her to hurry up, to wrap it up already. Here was my idiot thinking: “This is what moms do! Sheesh – why the big production? Are we almost done? Can I please go now?”
She seemed so needy of praise, and I was so reluctant to give it.
Why? Why? Why?
I thought about that today as I scrubbed my self-cleaning oven. Apparently, the maximum amount of times a self-cleaning oven will clean itself is two. After that, it becomes annoyed that you expect it to do all the work.
I love to cook, and fill every casserole dish, cookie sheet, and chili pot to the absolute brim. So, you can only imagine my oven after the self-cleaning feature crossed her arms and called it quits several years ago.
I asked my son to take a photo when I was elbow deep in crusty, black grease. I wanted to text it to David (who was surely sitting at his orderly desk, most certainly looking crisp and handsome, in his stunning charcoal suit and mint-green tie…) “Look at me! I’m cleaning our oven! It’s only taken me four hours and I’ve ruined my favorite yoga pants for love of this family!”
And now I get it.
I’m sorry, mom.
I love you, mom.
I wish I had carefully inspected every square inch of every windowsill you carefully dusted in the lonesome corners. I wish I had smelled the clean towels with huge, deep, appreciative, monster sniffs. I wish I would have burst into the kitchen saying: “Chicken and rice casserole again! My favorite! What can I do to help?”
Of course I wish now that I had offered to help you more: growing up five children is no small feat. But even more, I wish I had better seen the ways you lovingly touched every square inch of our lives and our home.
Little did I know then how needy I would also become. Mothers are a needy bunch, y’all! Our needs can make us desperate, irrational, and shake our confidence. But, do not fear.
Like new copper left to nature’s elements, every mother’s life will also be exposed to weather that will leave her looking nothing like how she began. The many seasons of life will create the most beautiful patina on every woman who throws open the windows of her heart to those she loves.
My mom’s patina is without comparison, a work of divine art. Take heart, yours will be too.
Press on in faith, love, and (even) oven cleaning,