Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Beautiful (11/07/05)
TITLE: Now That's Beautiful
By Kathleen Fairman
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My 14-year-old son, just home from school, stood at my desk, plainly miffed. “You said that the new window would make my room cooler. But it’s not. It’s 92 degrees in there!”
I glanced up from the article that I was writing. “Your room is warm because the window was just replaced, and the blinds aren’t up yet,” I said calmly. “The sunshine is coming in.”
“But Mom – ninety-two! Can’t you fix it? Now?”
“Patience, please.” This time I kept my eyes on the computer. “They’re thermal panes, dear, not heat shields on the Starship Enterprise.”
Just another typical afternoon in a household that my husband and I once nicknamed “Casa Chaos.” With three active boys, now preteen and teenaged, someone always needs something!
And on days when our hallways become a raucous tumble of the boys’ footballs, school uniforms, and running feet, I think longingly of a time when I was the center of their universe -- when, on one sparkling summer morning, one of them turned a small freckled face up to mine. “Oh, Mama,” he sighed happily, “you’re so beautiful that I can hardly stand it.”
Nowadays, their view of their mother is more, well, utilitarian:
“Mom, I signed you up for our class Thanksgiving feast tomorrow. I said you’d bake an apple pie. Hope that’s okay.”
“Mom, I forgot, my paper is due first period. It’s 3 pages. Can you type it at 6:30 before school?”
“Mom, I signed up for after-school snacks today. I need 30. You can take time off work, right?” (And ladies, in case you were wondering about my sanity or my moxie, let me reassure you: I said no.)
Illusions of beauty? Long gone. This I knew when one child, then age 9, asked why I use eyeliner. After listening to my explanation, he squinted in careful examination: “Well … you don’t really need it. Actually, when I look around your eyes, I see a few lines already.”
Or maybe it was in church, when I was gazing reverently at the cross, and another of our offspring, then age 11, leaned toward me. “Mom?” he whispered tentatively.
“Yes, sweetheart?” I smiled, anticipating an intimate moment.
“Do you brush your tongue when you brush your teeth?”
After 14 years of motherhood, nothing much surprises me now, but I have to admit this one caught me off guard. “Wha – Honey, I was praying. Is this important?”
“Well, our Science teacher said that we should brush our tongue. And you should try it. Your breath is pretty bad right now.”
Or maybe it was when our oldest discovered that my hair is highlighted. “Mom,” he spoke in a tone that one might reserve for the sale of nuclear material to foreign terrorists, “ARTIFICIAL color? Why? Aren’t you happy with the plain brown hair that God gave you?”
And dressing well? When there’s time. But when you have imaginative children, everything seems to take just a little longer. Take a conversation I had with our youngest recently:
Mom: Does your chest hurt when you cough, sweetheart?
Child: Well it’s like this: There’s an airplane flying around my lungs. Sometimes the landing is niiiiiiice and smoooooth. But sometimes, the pilot gets on the radio and yells: “MAYDAY! MAYDAY! MAYDAY!”
Mom: Ummm … so your chest hurts, then?
Child: Yes, sorta … Mom? Isn’t your shirt supposed to match your pants?
Is it surprising that I sometimes find it difficult – well, impossible – to feel beautiful?
But, in my imagined future, our boys think of me a little differently than they do today. In my fantasy, they gaze lovingly at their own wives or daughters, and say this:
“When I came home from school, Mom was there, because she and Dad thought that was important. She made my favorite dinner when I was upset, or happy, or sometimes just because. My mom couldn’t sew worth a darn, but one night she stayed up late to sew my uniform, and in the morning she had Band-Aids all over her fingers. She wore my team’s baseball cap even when it gave her ‘hat hair’. She told me jokes when I got sick, and taught us how to find barnacles in the tide pools at the beach. And when we had our first ever winter storm, my mom put baggies on our feet to keep them dry and danced with us in the snowflakes and taught us to make snow angels.”
“Now THAT’S beautiful.”
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