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Tag: fixing life’s hurts

the fixer

vintage tool kit

warning: this is bound to contain self-incriminating confessional as i explore the wilds of motherdom, and the root of the many sleepless nights in this old house.

somewhere along the line, the mothering line, perhaps long long ago in the days when a toy train would lose its wheels, or our striped little kitten would get stuck for days and days in some unknown nook or cranny along our graffiti-strewn alley, i seem to have morphed my job description, cobbling in an amendment to my motherly constitution, one that made me in charge of glueing on run-away train wheel, parading the alley for hours on end till said kitten meowed loudly enough for me to detect his latitude and longitude, bang on the door, grab the gang banger (yes, this is true), and get the little rascal loosed from his trappings.

i became the fixer. where i saw shattered parts or hearts, i’d set out to fix ’em.

this is not a task one should take on too lightly. for life, as it’s wont to do, throws steeper and steeper inclines, raises the bar higher and higher. when a backpack grew moldy, i could toss it in the wash. when a favorite sweatshirt somehow got kidnapped between the schoolyard, the little league lot, and the bedroom, i could dial up another one. i cannot count the number of days — and nights — of my life i spent prowling the alleys of chicago’s north side or this leafy little town, tearfully yodeling for our lost little kitten, the one who came home every time, with adventures left wholly unspoken.

truth be told, in the muddle of mothering, of being the self-appointed healer of brokenness, i took a wee bit of shine to this task and this title. if i could fix the runaway train wheel, track down the cat who’d lost his way home, maybe i had quasi-magical powers. maybe i’d found a backwater in life for which i had particular navigational skills. if i could set the world right, after it had been hurled topsy-turvy and helter-skelter, well then i could expunge a whole lot of hurt. i could find a way to nudge us — me and the people i loved — back to ground zero, the tranquil landscape of equanimity. aka, nirvana. or at least the momentary mirage thereof.

it was a job that felt noble and good. and, perhaps i’d fooled myself into thinking, locked in my indispensability.

the problem is that the little people over whose peaceable kingdoms i reigned, they got big and bigger. and so too did the things that need fixing. missing homework might be explained with a note to the teacher. not so much hearts mangled by crushes. or any one of the conundrums that are the daily bread and butter of life in the 21st century.

nowadays, often enough to give me that haggard sheen that comes from long nights tossing and turning and even longer days churning inside, i find myself encountering the worries of ushering one kid through the last few weeks of his junior year of high school, and another one who’s just moved to DC for the summer and found himself sleeping in a dorm room that redefines “spartan” (the exterminator slipped a note under the door just yesterday, and someone saw fit to assure the dormers that the asbestos was confined to the boiler room), and all while juggling a paper or two still due back at law school.

too many things i cannot fix. and, yes, i realize the fallacy. i understand that i shouldn’t, that it’s not my job — nor would it be wise in the long run — to be anyone’s personal fix-it shop. but somehow in my scrambled head, i still ache to be able to wave my magic wand, as i so ingeniously did in the old days. and i can’t quell the yearning — and scrambling — to do so.

maybe it comes from years of not knowing how to fix the things that flummoxed my very own self. the chains that truly bound me. maybe the easy satisfaction of glueing together a toy, of putting clean sheets on the bed of someone i loved, maybe it all gave me an unquenchable glimpse of how it might be to wield prestidigitational powers — the ones i clearly lacked when i was the broken one.

or maybe it’s just what you do when you love. when you remember the day you whispered the promise: “i will shield you, my sweet, will do all in my power to keep you from hurt and from harm. will enfold you in safe holy wings.”

maybe, in the end, the love itself is the thing. maybe the fixing isn’t quite so much the point.

maybe even when we can’t find the missing piece, solve the equation, apply the glue, maybe it’s in the certain openness of our hearts, the willingness to leap into the trenches, or even to listen from afar, maybe it’s the undying sense that we’re in for the forever haul, maybe that’s where the true fixing comes….

maybe that’s the heart of my unending motherprayer…

i’m without answers, and uncertain whether my fixing affliction is shared by many, though i’ve a hunch i’m not alone. do we miss the point — and drive ourselves batty — when we think it’s our job to be the fix-it machine? or is the whole point to station ourselves firmly and squarely beside the hearts we love, so that when they inevitably wobble or break, we are right there to apply love even when we’ve no glue?

pulling rabbits out of hats

it is what mothers do. on a rare day, on a day when stars and moons and jupiter and venus all align.

it is what mothers wish they could do every breathing day–make it all all right again. pick up the pieces. clean up the mess. shake off the bits of gravel from there on the sidewalk, where the grit scraped the knee. kiss the hurt, slap on a bandaid. make it all right again.

we know, those of us with half an ounce of living, that more often than not, we can’t right what’s wrong. can’t make the mean girls go away. can’t shift the score of the ballgame. can’t even chase the mean coach into a corner, make him tremble for what he’s done to someone we love.

but, once in a while, when the pile of wrongs piles too high, we swoop into action. we make like houdini. pull rabbits from hats.

and so it was the other morning, when i got to breathe deep of that rare sense of glory, of having triumphed, mended a hole in the day of a kid i happen to love more than life.

here’s the simple story, told only to remind me and you that we really can, every once in awhile, grab onto our britches, dash out the door, and make like a hero for someone we love. and of course it’s not about being the hero, it’s about that rare chance to do as we wish others might do for us, be for us. that rare chance to live the magnificent, luminous goldenest rule: do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

how often have we found our sorry selves at the end of our ropes, and wished upon stars that someone would leap to our rescue? and what a beautiful thing when we find that we can do just that. for no reason other than through-and-through, inside-and-out, plain pure love.

so this boy who i adore–you’ve heard me write of him over the years–he is this week about as neck-deep in plain old unfiltered stress as a senior in high school can be: he is in the thick of tryouts for crew, a sport that has kids pulling on oars till they literally see stars and crash to the floor (don’t get me started); he is also in dress rehearsals for the spring musical; and cranking out not one but six art pieces for AP photo class, with a gallery show opening next week.

and so of course this is the week his phone, a fifth limb if ever there was one, decided to sputter and gasp and utterly die.

now a boy without phone is, i quickly realized, a boy whose life is verging on crumbling.

for one, he had no way to wake up in the morn, as that phone serves to jangle him from deepest of sleep, with its haranguing alarm that wakes the whole house–except, of course, for the intended sleeper.

for two, since the world has been stripped of pay phones, he couldn’t call for a ride, or tell me what time to be where.

and the mere look on his face, the oh-my-god-if-one-more-thing-goes-i’m-going-too, it stirred me to muster some forces.

as i dashed in his room that dreary morning, just after he’d trudged off to school, and suddenly i spied the dead phone stiff on the desk, i charged into supernurse mode. i dialed the phone store (from a phone with a pulse, thank you). i made an appointment. i squeezed in a triage, smack dab in the thick of a workday. the dear man at the store, he pulled out a toothbrush, of all the high-techy tools. he oohed and ahhed at all the gunk that had nestled into the cracks of the phone. and then, in unsparing words, he looked up and declared: “this phone has come to its end.”

he rattled through options. i attached price tags to every last one. but then i thought of that kid, i thought how little he asks and how hard he tries.

i told the man i’d like a replacement, didn’t care much that it’d cost more, by a long shot, than popcorn and movies.

the nice man played a rare card: without my even asking, he rang up the bill, and as he punched in the buttons asked me something about was the battery working. i said i really didn’t know the state of the battery, but then when he showed me the final sum, he’d sliced off a whole $120, because he deemed it a “battery issue.”

then he handed me a brand new phone, and i brushed the tear from my eye, sprouted due to his kindness and the mere fact that not even dollars would keep me from fixing a hole in the skin of my kid.

i walked out of that store as if on a hovercloud, my chest nearly heaving at the rare joy of success, my mood downright giddy. what had felt like a mountain just hours ago, was now whittled down to a clearing. i couldn’t subside the pure joy of lifting the load from my boy. knew, through and through, there’d be more times than not that i’d stand on the sidelines helpless, while the stretchers were rushed on the field. but for now, there was only delight.

and that night, when that tired tall kid strode through the door, expecting to spend yet another long night without phone, he looked at his bedside table, and there, lit up and flashing the time, he spied the fruits of my motherly labors.

he practically rubbed at his eyes, as if he couldn’t believe what he saw: the one thing he wished for that day, the one thing he couldn’t possibly have carved out a minute to do, it was lying there, shiny and new, just waiting for him to pick up and text.

it’s a rare and heady day. but oh how glorious a gift to get to play like a mama magician and make one bumpy life all smooth again.

no old hare ever looked so magnificent, no matter the hat from which it was pulled.

have you yanked any rabbits out of hats lately? anyone pulled one out for you?