I have so many different feelings and so much love flowing off of me from my Listen To Your Mother experience. I’m still processing, and I promise to share all of everything with you. And I also promise to share the video of me reading my essay when it’s released later this summer. In the meantime, though, the essay is one I want to share with you.
And with it, I’m sending you every Mother’s Day wish imaginable to your biological mother’s and those people who love other people’s children like they’re own. I’m so thankful for you all. Enjoy your day and bask in the love and pampering. You deserve it.
And especially Happy Mother’s Day to my sweet mom. Love you!
My mother stands on the front step of my childhood home. It’s only in my memory’s eye, but I see her clearly framed by the dark green of the front door. Feet up one brick step from the driveway where I sit, hands on my steering wheel.
As I pull down, around, and out of the steep driveway, she might yell, “Bye,” the syllable trailing off. And I’m pretty sure she waves. But that’s not what sticks with me.
What I still hear are the words she softly said when she hugged me close moments before.
“Traveling Mercies,” she said. “Traveling Mercies.”
This was before my parents downsized into a smaller house. When I still drove home from grad school for Christmas breaks. When my yellow lab would stretch across the back seat of my Subaru before she was replaced by double car seats. This was before traveling meant pack n plays, strollers, and do you think I packed enough diapers?
But Traveling Mercies is still my mother’s sign off, pulled from the pages of Anne Lamott and adapted to fit my mom’s impressions, ideas, life. And it comes anytime I leave her. Right after her advice to stop in Wytheville for gas because it’s cheaper there. And after her “Love you” and growling bear hug.
It’s her version of bon voyage, happy trails, safe travels. Within the space of two words, my mom wishes me well and prays for my safety between her front door and wherever I go. In two words, I’ve been granted her protection, love, security.
I admit the phrase from anyone else would make me cringe. But Traveling Mercies fits my mother as well as the gold guardian angel pendent she always wears around her neck nestled with the cross and the Virgin Mary. She was raised in an Irish Catholic family, the middle of five children. She wore a school uniform past her knees, married in the cathedral, put me in Sunday school.
And today, Traveling Mercies sticks with me like honey to the spoon I give my son for his croupy cough. Like melted red Popsicles down their wrists in summer evenings. Like Band-Aids, glitter glue, or the doorknob to the back yard.
In these moments, I feel very much like a mother. The simple and everyday seconds make me feel the weight of my children without even touching them. The planetary pull of mother to child. Our shared orbit. In the most ordinary of moments, I feel the enormity that it is to be a Mom. To have to shape and mold my children into adults. To have to love them in such a primal, huge, and long way.
To want to love them in that huge and long way.
These seconds add up quickly. Their combined weight crowded in my lap at story time. Stoplight smiles in my rear view mirror. Dinnertime battles over spinach or ketchup (not together of course). Around the thigh hugs, just because. The Motown dance parties. When “Mom” stretches into two syllables.
These seconds add up quickly.
And that’s when I feel like motherhood is some kind of winding, turning road trip in itself. And I’m behind the wheel again, racing along at 135 miles an hour with no time to check my mirrors before switching lanes.
This when I hear my mother’s whisper in my ear from far away.
It echoes to my bones.
In my rawest mothering moments, when I want to scream, and I do. When timeout doesn’t work, and my kids smile at my frustration. I hear it.
I’m not a crusader. And my mothering is not a religious mission. I’m not even physically going anywhere.
So these Traveling Mercies are different.
The words are still very much full of love. The same primal, huge, and long love. This time, though, it’s for me. This kind of love fills me up and regenerates. And I’m warmed, strengthened, covered in it with two words.
This prayer is less about protection. It’s not about safety or security. It’s a prayer of compassion. Of patience. Forgiveness. Self-appreciation.
Traveling Mercies is my mother’s lullaby to a mother. And it sings to comfort and soothe. It sings to calm me as I race, no matter how fast, down my road of motherhood.