Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Invisible Mom

A very good friend of mine, who has grown boys of her own, sent me the following story. It really hit home.

I'm Invisible

It all began to make sense, the blank stares, the lack of
response, the way one of the kids will walk into the room
while I'm on the phone and ask to be taken to the store.
Inside I'm thinking, "Can't you see I'm on the phone?"
Obviously not; no one can see if I'm on the phone, or
cooking, or sweeping the floor, or even standing on my head
in the corner, because no one can see me at all. I'm
invisible. The invisible Mom.

Some days I am only a pair of hands, nothing more: Can you
fix this? Can you tie this? Can you open this?

Some days I'm not a pair of hands; I'm not even a human
being. I'm a clock to ask, "What time is it?" I'm a
satellite guide to answer, "What number is the Disney
?" I'm a car to order, "Right around 5:30, please."

I was certain that these were the hands that once held books
and the eyes that studied history and the mind that
graduated summa cum laude - but now they had disappeared
into the peanut butter, never to be seen again. She's going,
she's going, she's gone!

One night, a group of us were having dinner, celebrating the
return of a friend from England. Janice had just gotten back
from a fabulous trip, and she was going on and on about the
hotel she stayed in. I was sitting there, looking around at
the others all put together so well. It was hard not to
compare and feel sorry for myself as I looked down at my
out-of-style dress; it was the only thing I could find that
was clean. My unwashed hair was pulled up in a hair clip and
I was afraid I could actually smell peanut butter in it. I
was feeling pretty pathetic, when Janice turned to me with a
beautifully wrapped package, and said, "I brought you this."
It was a book on the great cathedrals of Europe. I wasn't
exactly sure why she'd given it to me until I re ad her
inscription: "To Charlotte, with admiration for the
greatness of what you are building when no one sees."

In the days ahead I would read - no, devour - the book. And
I would discover what would become for me, four
life-changing truths, after which I could pattern my work:
No one can say who built the great cathedrals - we have no
record of their names. These builders gave their whole lives
for a work they would never see finished. They made great
sacrifices and expected no credit. The passion of their
building was fueled by their faith that the eyes of God saw

A legendary story in the book told of a rich man who came to
visit the cathedral while it was being built, and he saw a
workman carving a tiny bird on the inside of a beam. He was
puzzled and asked the man, "Why are you spending so much
time carving that bird into a beam that will be covered by
the roof? No one will ever see it." And the workman replied,
"Because God sees."

I closed the book, feeling the missing piece fall into
place. It was almost as if I heard God whispering to me, "I
see you, Charlotte. I see the sacrifices you make every day,
even when no one around you does. No act of kindness you've
done, no sequin you've sewn on, no cupcake you've baked, is
too small for me to notice and smile over. You are building
a great cathedral, but you can't see right now what it will

At times, my invisibility feels like an affliction. But it
is not a disease that is erasing my life. It is the cure for
the disease of my own self-centeredness. It is the antidote
to my strong, stubborn pride. I keep the right perspective
when I see myself as a great builder. As one of the people
who show up at a job that they will never see finished, to
work on something that their name will never be on. The
writer of the book went so far as to say that no cathedrals
could ever be built in our lifetime because there are so few
people willing to sacrifice to that degree.

When I really think about it, I don't want my son to tell
the friend he's bringing home from college for Thanksgiving,
"My mom gets up at 4 in the morning and bakes homemade pies,
and then she hand bastes a turkey for three hours and
presses all the linens for the table." That would mean I'd
built a shrine or a monument to myself. I just want him to
want to come home. And then, if there is anything more to
say to his friend, to add, "You're gonna love it there."

As mothers, we are building great cathedrals. We cannot be
seen if we're doing it right. And one day, it is very
possible that the world will marvel, not only at what we
have built, but at the beauty that has been added to the
world by the sacrifices of invisible women.

Great Job, MOM!