Some days I run hard. I’m busy, too busy really. I switch the laundry, make another batch of pie dough, sweep the kitchen, and dole out chores to rowdy, grunting boys. Then I bundle the baby warm to drive my mother to the airport. I pull to the departure curb and run around the side of the van to lift her suitcase before she does. I’m already thinking of how I need to stop at the store on the way home.
My mother pauses against the rush of things and hugs me tight. She pulls back and looks straight into me, “I love you, I really do . . .” Her hair is silver-white and her frame more delicate than ever. The sparkle of love in her eyes is so light it’s almost hard to face head-on. I am caught off-guard in the middle of this gray, ordinary day. My emotion spills over. I think of the gift of her earnest love. How there are a finite number of times I will hug her goodbye. How her brave “yes” to life upon conceiving me, her youngest, did not come with ease. How she has worked hard to give me her very best. How there have been shortcomings and heartaches on every side, but how love touches the deepest chord of things. How it transcends.
I collect my emotions all undone on the curb, and get back in the car to call my husband about the upcoming season. The holidays are a busy time. What ingredients are needed? What will we make for the children? What will we buy for the children? What gatherings with extended family and old friends will mark the bustling days of the calendar? What gifts will be most useful, and what events will be most meaningful? I think hard on what might surprise, delight, and grow souls.
As mother of the brood, it’s all a lot of work. Having one son already in college makes me wonder. What gifts do my children remember? What will they remember most from these fleeting childhood holidays? My oldest would probably be pressed to recall the gifts he was given even just last year. What stays the course and grounds the heart?
I am reminded of my mother’s loving embrace earlier. I remember that we already have the gift of all gifts needed. Love is the miracle and mystery that transcends. This is the gift I have received from my mother and can give away endlessly as I pour love into my efforts. What grace we have been given through Jesus to share in his love! He gives me, as a mother, his love, to be given to each unique child—that each special one might experience the grounding of love for generations to come.
I pray that my children will come to know new depths of love with every Advent mass. I pray that they will cherish their faith in Jesus as the “home” of their holidays. I pray that with every family holiday meal around our table, they will taste of the unity of loving sustenance. I pray that time with siblings, cousins, family, and friends will draw them into a desire to love fully, laugh freely, and give sacrificially. I pray that they will never settle for the scarce rations of tangible gifts as an end in themselves but as a means to understand more of God’s love—the love that transcends all gifts.