Monday, February 14, 2011

Gracewash



EB’s birthday is at the beginning of February. Every year. And every year, after the whirlwind of holidays, followed by Daddy’s January birthday and cold and flu season getting off to a bold start, I find myself shocked at the arrival of Groundhog Day and the Daddy Daughter Dance and another impending birthday party for my Big Girl.

This year, like last, she insisted on having a party at home. We considered all the hassle-free, super fun, party-in-a-box options across town, but each of them either placed onerous restrictions on the guest list or included activities that EB only considers medium fun. In the end she insisted (with husband shaking his head quietly in the corner) that the only good solution is a party for 15 of her closest friends right here in our home. Our original party date was pushed twice, largely because the weather and various illness-related contingencies destroyed my ability to get invitations out on time. But over the weekend, when I suggested to my husband that we were going to push the date once again to the first weekend in March, he gave me crazy eyes and I relented.

Already weary from the thought of hosting a homemade party for 15 six year olds, and of only providing 5 days advance notice to her guests, I also realized yesterday that our laser printer is broken. So, on a gorgeous Sunday afternoon with the cool breeze blowing through the windows across my kitchen table, I decided just to sit down with my Sharpie and hand-letter EB’s cupcake-shaped party invitations.

For hours, she watched me. She peered over my shoulder, careful not to budge the table or my arm. She left to play with a friend and came back to check on my progress. She sat next to me and chatted. She answered the door for the blessed Girl Scout selling Thin Mints. And she told me how much she loved her party invitations.

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As I shared a few weeks ago, this year our family decided to participate in Megan’s class Valentine project with Love146.org. I had big designs on creating cards and gifts with all the fabulosity my creative heart could muster. But the broken printer thwarted those plans. So after hand-lettering 15 party announcements, I dug out the construction paper, school glue, tape, Skittles, a Sharpie, and a glass of red wine, and set out to create Valentines for Main Man’s class party.

When I explained to him what I was doing, he instantly engaged. And so we sat in the living room floor together for an hour past his bedtime. He counted, organized, watched, advised, and generally invested himself in the whole creative process. Like his sister, I reminded him not to bump my arm or the lap desk where I was writing. He eagerly agreed to be oh-so-careful, and then with each new card I began to write, he leapt across the floor, skidded into my side, and rested his sweet chin on my arm to watch me write the message of Love146.org from our family to each of his friends. Before he went to bed, Main Man thanked me.

This morning when I took Main Man to school, he couldn’t wait to get inside. His arms exploded with his lunch and backpack as we walked toward the back door of the white wood frame, single room schoolhouse; still, he snatched the grocery bag filled with red and white plates and napkins and folded construction paper, handwritten Valentines. “Cheryl, look! Here are my cards for all my friends! My Mommy made them! Even as I had bagged them up earlier in the morning, my heart sunk a little at how plain they appeared. So I was slightly embarrassed and caught a little off-guard by the pride in his voice.

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I enjoy crafts but I wouldn’t consider myself crafty. EB’s party invitations and Main Man’s Valentines surely will not be the most beautiful any of the recipients has ever received. But I found myself humbled by the pride those kids took in my work. The joy they found when I simply gave what I had available to give.

Seeing my hands at work to create something imperfect, especially for them, made them both inexplicably happy. They indentify with creating. They create for me all the time. Creating is one of the many ways they demonstrate their love for me. The hand-written love note. The sticky, messy, drippy heart-shaped doily glued on construction paper. The pages of attempts at numerals 1-100 or letters of the alphabet. They pour their love for me – everything they have - into their own precious hands and create something imperfect. And somewhere in the Giving, those Creations become Grace-washed, like a fence with a pretty coat of white paint. They give what they have, and I see beauty and love and perfection, and I am so grateful.

They don’t understand (or care) that the long day I spend at the office exercising razor sharp professional skill provides them with a "good life." The story they understand with perfect clarity is the story told by my clumsy hands employing imperfect skill to create a messed-up creation that, when viewed through their innate lens of Perfect Grace becomes, to their eyes, a vibrant, tangible picture of my love for them. They gladly – even intuitively – Grace-wash my creative efforts when I give what I have.

And all that grace washing over my miserable attempts to give what I have? The clearest picture of their love for me.

The clearest picture of True Love, indeed.

photo by Vintage Collective

15 comments:

  1. This is so lovely that I almost don't know what to say in response.

    During one of our snow days, I sat down to actually do some watercoloring of my own with the girls. I realized I so rarely do art with them - mostly supervise. I painted a sloppy little picture of our Forever Home in the country. Dacey has bragged that painting up to anyone who will listen. It brings me low, that's for sure.

    Gracewash. Oh yes. I can relate.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Beautiful.

    Kaly loves her valentine from Maxwell, by the way. She's carried her valentine bag everywhere with us this afternoon (and it is now ripped and now longer a viable bag). But she's shown everyone Maxwell's valentine, proudly proclaiming that he's one of her best friends, and he lives just up the street so they get to play together even at home.

    And for what it's worth, I was personally very impressed with the valentines. We'd had grand plans in our own home, but with malfunctioning technology, a microbiology exam and a chemistry lab report that was giving me fits, I surrendered ... nothing creative. A check on the to-do list was all I accomplished. But Kaly too was pleased to have gifts for her friends. They're love is so great and pure. And I can only hope I'm as good at showing them my love as they are at showing me theirs :-)

    Good job mama!

    ReplyDelete
  3. This just gave me chills.

    My mom taught me how to make block letters when I was just a teeny bit older than EB. I thought she was the most creative, most talented, best mommy in the world when I watched her letter. Now, even when I can see the simplicity in what she was drawing, I still think that about her.

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  4. wonderful! Nothing like stuff made from the heart!

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