My Mom has always been my touch point, my reality checker, my protector, and my inspirer and conspirer. We grew close when I was a teenager, since I was the only child left at home and my Dad was often ‘gone’. Mom allowed me to grow, to learn, to flourish, and to fly- but always had a way of keeping me real, so to speak. We always have fun together.
As I age, I see her in me in so many ways. It makes me smile, and sometimes it makes me curse.
As I age, she does too. She has been giving me things. Things from her childhood, things she holds close to her heart, I think because she knows I value them deeply.
Last year, she gave me her ‘soap-baby’. My Memere (French for Grandma) received this little soap-baby during my Mom’s baby shower, close to 78 years ago. Mom has kept it all these years. She cherished it by hiding it away, wrapped in a soft cloth, tucked safely in her top dresser drawer. When she offered soap-baby to me, I recall her carefully holding it in her aged hands. I listened eagerly, as she shared her beloved story about how old it was, the memories she had of it, and how she had carried it with her through her life as a memento of her birth. She said she wanted to give it to me, because she knew how I too would cherish it and keep it safe. I was filled with gratitude that Mom would entrust me with her soap-baby.
I have a pretty, little box that I put things that I love and cherish in. I have some patient notes that thank me for the gentle care I provided, a rock I found on a hike, to remind me not everything is easy, a rubber ball to remind me to laugh and bounce when caught off guard, a pretty feather to remind me that I should be both gentle and light. I have a cross from my Memere’s funeral, reminding me that love endures, and some handwritten pick-me-up notes from friends whom I adore. I even have a Sharpie marker in there, because I enjoy writing in thick black lines. I knew Soap-Baby belonged alongside all the other items that remind me my life is precious. I placed her inside, tucked away in that soft cloth, safe and sound.
I was feeling a little sad one day, so I brought out my pretty, little box and unwrapped Mom’s fragile Soap-Baby. In my hands, she felt cool and smooth. My hands traced along the petite bridge of her tiny nose and curved legs. As I breathed deeply, I could smell her light soapy fragrance and as I cradled her, I imagined all the things Soap-Baby had seen in her life. These sensations brought me solace from sadness, and I could feel my eyes begin to soften and my brow unfurrow. But then, in an instant, I DROPPED Soap-Baby!!!! It was like I was in slow motion, Soap-Baby slipped from my hands, fell onto the kitchen tile and her head broke off.
Feelings of despair flowed through me, because Mom had entrusted Soap-Baby to me. Mom had taken care of her for 78 years, and I had not. For, in minutes, I had broken her fragile body in two! Crying sorrowfully, I lovingly wrapped Soap-Baby up and placed her gently to rest in my pretty, little box. What was I going to do? I had to tell Mom about my clumsy, uncaring, untrustworthy act of dropping Soap-Baby. I was fearful and shameful, my gut wrenching and my heart broken, just like Soap-Baby’s neck.
She came to visit. I had to tell her. I took out my pretty, little box and then with shaking hands, trembling voice and tears of sadness said, “Mom, I have to show you what I did. I dropped Soap-Baby and she broke. I am so sorry.” I stammered, “You had her for 78 years and I broke her in minutes.” I couldn’t stop the tears, the feelings of shame and carelessness overwhelmed me.
All Mom did was hug me tight and said, “It’s ok Nicole, it was only a piece of soap. It is ok.” In this moment, I felt complete forgiveness infuse deep into my soul and although Soap-Baby’s neck was still broken, my heart began its healing. The love and understanding I received that day reminds me still of the power that lies in the forgiveness of another.
Soap-Baby still lays alongside all my other special memories. I take her out when I am seeking a reminder that I am loved, trustworthy, fragile, imperfect and always forgiven.
I love you Mom and I always will.