Monday, March 17, 2008

Deepest Desire

Finished the last of Katie's presents late last night. The final touch was a t-shirt. On the front it says: For her 21st Birthday, Katie's Mama gave to her..... On the back is a list of the 21 presents, written in the rhythm of "12 Days of Christmas."

I shipped the first week's worth of presents last week, each gift with a numbered tag.. She calls before opening the day's present and howls with laughter each time. "You're so weird, Mom," "Where did you get that?" "That's so funny," she says.

Each present is closely tied to her life in some way. They're the essence of Katie-ness. So far, the things she's opened have been inconsequential, to say the least. Still, she wakes up early and bounces out of bed to open the day's installment in this parade of silliness. A bottle of Ranch Dressing. A package of Ramen noodles. A plastic pony that swells when you put it in water so you can "Grow a Pony." A t-shirt bearing her favorite joke.

I took the cookbook pages to a copy center to see about getting them laminated and bound. The young woman working the counter had tri-colored hair, a large tongue stud, and a pierced eyebrow. Not someone you'd immediately peg as sentimental. She had tears in her eyes as she flipped through the pages. "I can't imagine my mom doing this," she said.

That's been the most common comment. The main reaction is a sad kind of envy. Not for the recipes, surely, or even the pictures.

My theory is that these projects speak to a deep desire to be seen. I know her favorite snack foods...the joke she never gets tired of...her favorite movie from childhood. I still have the tag she wore to her first day of kindergarten, some of her art projects, and notes she wrote when she was little. I see her. Who she is, is important to me. That's what people respond to, what puts tears in their eyes.

My son, the tough guy, came by last night. I showed him a few pages and asked if he'd be interested in having his own book. He looked at the floor. "Yeah. I'd like to have the recipes. And maybe someday my wife would like having the pictures," he said. Before he left half an hour later, he'd mentioned at least a dozen recipes he wanted included in his book and twice that many pictures he'd like to have in there. Before he got out the door, he reminded me twice that his birthday's coming up in May. (Like I could forget--it's the same day as mine.)

We all need to be seen. Even tough guys.


Anonymous said...

One of a kind, sis. One of a kind.

mamatulip said...

This brings tears to my eyes.

It reminds me very much of something my own mother would have done.

You are amazing.

kario said...

You are absolutely right. Bigger and better than the actual, tangible things you are offering your children is the knowledge you give them that they are loved in an active, responsive, observant way.

I can only hope to learn from you, my friend. Your soul comes shining through in these acts.


Stacy said...

I was wondering how the tough guy would react to this gift. He does need to be known as well doesn't he? I often think about how little my own Mom knew me or talked about the things i said or did that were endearing when I was little. She only told a few stories wherein it was obvious her disdain of me. Tough to live down, your children are so blessed to be loved by you!

riversgrace said...

You are so right, it does bring tears. Maybe it's the deepest longing, to be seen by the one who shaped us into being.

You are a saint for showing up like this for your children, J. And for showing up for yourself as a mother.

Thank you for setting an example for me.

Deb said...

It's interesting that both you and Carrie are talking about the importance of being seen. I can't tell you how much I love this gift of knowingness that you bestow on your children - this gift that is the biggest kind of love I can imagine. You are a wonder of a mom and a woman. So glad to know you.

Michelle O'Neil said...


luckyzmom said...


Jess said...

Love that you did that for her, love that project, and love most that he so openly expressed that he wanted one too.

Me, I am sentimental, and those kids a lucky ones.