The door warden shushes the crowd for the dozenth time. Inside the double doors, a choir sings. Chattering in the lobby all around me are fans (relatives, mostly) of Canby High School's Concert Choir. Bill coaches Nick's baseball team 40 minutes away; I stand alone in the growing din. Out of the corner of my eye, I notice Steven's dad and then two adorable girls standing nervously along side him. I wave and weave through the crowd to greet them. I feel genuine joy seeing all of them.
"Hi Annie! Hi Lucy! I'm excited you are here. Did you come to watch Steven sing?" They nod. Annie smiles in recognition while Lucy eyes me, unsure about how I fit. In addition to Nick, my almost nine-year-old, Steven is big brother to John, also across town playing baseball I learn, and these two. There is nothing half about any of his four siblings; they are his brothers and sisters.
A line of Canby Choir members walks outside of the glass doors and I point. "Hey girls, let's try to high five Steven!" I say, moving toward the doors. The girls and Steven's dad follow and we watch for Steven's smile. The end of the line arrives but no sign of Steven. I can feel his sisters' disappointment. Assuming I missed him in the beginning, I rush back inside, followed by the other three. When I still don't see him, I ask one of the young women I know from their years of being classmates. She points to the other side of the lobby and explains he is in the other line. I thank her over my shoulder, turn to direct Steven's dad, and follow behind as we weave through the crowded area. Lucy is the littlest and tries to keep pace with her sister. I trail behind her, just close enough to gently touch her back in reassurance as we move forward.
We see him and he sees us. His eyes brighten and he waves. I encourage the girls to walk to him as he kneels down to open his arms. Annie rushes forward without hesitation but Lucy isn't as sure. At three, she understands the least about our big family and how Steven and I fit. The doors will open any minute and our window to say hello will close; I lean forward as ask her if she would like me to walk with her. She nods and we walk forward. His smile disarms and she closes the distance to allow him to enfold her in his choir robe-draped arms.
Moments later applause erupts inside, the doors open, and Steven leads his line inside. His sisters perch on the edge of their seats and listen attentively to what will be declared to be the second best 6A choir in Oregon a few hours later.
Annie and Lucy may not be my kids but I love them just the same.
After, we find two sets of grandparents in the lobby. We take turns hugging and saying hello and my heart pounds as I see my small world, as it should be: Steven's motley crew of a village beaming with pride.
I wake early without setting an alarm. Nick's weekend baseball tournament will continue this morning which means he will be awake soon. And, anticipating his favorite Mother's Day gift to me, I stay in bed and type on my phone. He gingerly turns the knob on the door to peek inside and determine if I'm awake. He spots my open eyes and reports breakfast is almost ready. I continue to type away, continuing my days long effort to turn the jumble of words and ideas in my mind into a coherent string.
Holidays such as today make me melancholy. Don't get me wrong, my boys are thoughtful and doting and work to ensure I remember I am loved (see exhibit A, above).
My shades of blue feelings stem from a sense that we have it all wrong, that naming and celebrating a day devoted to a mother or a father misses an opportunity to celebrate all of the other key participants in a child's, a person's life.
Very few, if any of us, actually live the greeting card version of life. Instead of "you're the best mom in the entire world!" an accurate greeting card might read "you're the best at trying to be a good mom even though you yell sometimes and skip pages in the book when you are reading to me and take me to Taco Bell for dinner multiple nights in a row."
I'm a good mom. Most days I don't even need anyone else to tell me so. But you know what I'm great at? I'm great at recruiting help. At cultivating members of our village. And convincing people we are worth investing in with time, energy, and love. Without our village, I would not be able to type the words I'm a good mom; the reason I am certain in my assertion is the multitudes of people ready and willing to engage whenever I ask.
I'm also good at recognizing when my people can use a little of what we collectively call mothering (I call it caring). A dear friend shared over lunch last week that his mostly disappeared dad contacted him via email, the unexpected missive disruptive and upsetting. I sat along side him and instinctively lifted my hand to rest on his upper back. I rubbed my hand back and forth a few times and told him I am sorry. I didn't list the dozens of reasons I know such an email would be a shock to his system, I simply told him I am sorry because he knows the rest.
He often does the same for me. We've enjoyed years of this back and forth, years of us caring and of recognizing when the other needs a little extra care. He once sent me a text asking if I was okay after simply seeing me walk in front of him. I was in the middle of falling apart and he sees me, knows me, and senses my pain from across the room.
And he is just one person. One person who makes me feel comforted in moments of despair and who is reminded he is not alone with the simple touch of my hand on his back.
I think caring for each other is why we are here. It's why sayings like, "be kinder than necessary, everyone is fighting a battle" and "we're all just walking each other home" are common. But we forget sometimes to give credit. And that's my ultimate problem with this day: the name shrinks the contributions of everyone else and it projects a perfect image none of us can attain. You don't have to be a parent to love me. You don't have to like kids to love my kids. A sharp stick in the eye may sound better to you than the idea of having kids of your own. Or you may be on year three, 10, 25 of wanting and hoping for a child that hasn't yet arrived. Thinking of your own mom may make you angry. Sad. Anxious. Afraid. Loved. You may not hear from your kids today. You may not hear from your mom today. The reasons range from death to spite, from fear to regret.
None of it makes you any more or any less than me. Than your neighbor. We each walk on our own winding and sometimes rocky path but we're here. You're here. And I'm glad.
Therefore, I'm renaming today. It is now and forever more It Takes a Village Day. If you're reading this, thank you for being a member of our village. Some of you live within our village every day, some of you watch from afar, and some of you visit on occasion. But, near or far, you're our people and we want you to know we're grateful.