“To live is so startling it leaves little time for anything else.”
This morning I took a rare moment when Sophie was down for a nap to curl up in Dan’s recliner chair with a cup of coffee and Sarah Ban Breathnach’s Simple Abundance, A Day Book of Comfort and Joy. As I read, I was aware of the sounds of the house: the dishwasher, the washing machine, the rise and fall of Sophie’s deep breathing over the baby monitor, and the faint dripping of rain on the tender new leaves of the trees outside. As always happens, something I read got me thinking, ideas ping-ponged around in my head, until I thought I’d try to chronicle them here.
“…Then, without missing a beat, you wipe a snotty nose, change a dirty diaper, defrost the hamburger in the microwave, start the spaghetti sauce, sew a button on a coat, help someone with her homework. You pause for a moment, wondering what they would do if you weren’t here and realize in the same breath that you’re awfully glad you are. Much to your astonishment it occurs to you that you must posses some aspect of allure because everybody in the house gravitates to you. In the middle of the night, they call your name.”
Somehow that exert summed up in my imagination what motherhood is. I want it to be all lace doilies and roses, and instead it seems to be snotty noses and dirty dishes. But that is exactly where the memories are to be made. While I desire that my children have a calm and orderly environment to learn and grow in, it may not come to fruition in the way that I imagine. The allure of motherhood actually lies in the acts of self sacrifice and denial. It lies in the cheerful giving of ourselves for our family.
“There is in the world no function more important than that of being charming, to shed joy around, to cast light upon dark days… is not this to render a service?”
We find our daughters to be charming as they go about their lives being babies. When they are alert, and interested in the world around them, commenting on the things which they observe, we find them charming. When the daughter becomes obsessed with her hurt knee, or her desire to watch a certain movie, or play with a toy which her sister is enjoying at that moment, she looses her charm. The charm of childhood comes from forgetting herself and just living.
True charm and allure can only be attained by transparently being what God has made us to be. Charm and allure can be learned, in the sense that one can learn good manners or gracefulness, but it always comes from the root of self sacrifice. To sacrifice self is to esteem others as greater than ourselves, which is true Love. To truly Love, is to truly Live. As Emily Dickinson puts it, to Live is so startling it leaves little time for anything else, and that is allure.