Thanks to you moms, there are things we cannot forget
MY 3-YEAR-OLD daughter takes one of my hands and one of her mom's as we walk through Chinatown to dinner, swinging casually between us like Tarzan. This is a nice guise for the tense mood. Apparently, Tarzan has been getting more attention than Jane lately, and Jane isn't happy. I guess that makes me the monkey.
"You hold her hand more than mine," my wife told me before we left the house, and I look like the dog looks when he knows he's soiled the carpet.
Mom doesn't realize that Dad's heart has been changing lately. Her picture used to be the only one that would fit inside its frame. Having a child has not replaced her. The frame has gotten bigger. Becoming a parent makes more space in your heart for the people you love the most. Still, there is something to be said for remembering the things that matter most, and holding Mom's hand is one of those things.
Mom's belly is eight months large with a little brother. Both of our hearts are preparing to get bigger still. We walk more slowly together, the three and a half of us.
At dinner we eat quietly. I am searching for the right words with which to respond, about a half-hour late. Fortunately, Mom is the more patient of the two of us, and she realizes it takes just about that long for me to digest anything. My brain and my stomach are on about the same schedule. Although patient, she's getting to her wits' end. Mom's knife sounds like a samurai sword when it slides through her steak and strikes the plate.
"I was thinking about our anniversary coming up," I say. She stares at me as though a dust mite could be more interesting. I am clearly getting no points for remembering.
"My friends who are single don't have to remember anniversaries," I go on. "They have to remember a lot less, and they spend their money on what they want to and most of them don't drive family cars."
"So?" she finally answers.
"I'm glad you make me remember the things that matter most," I tell her. I reach out and take her hand. Most of the things I say these days I say because I like the way Mom's nose wrinkles when she giggles.
"Cute," she says, and rolls her eyes. Then she adds, "Maybe with a boy I'll get to be the favorite one this time."
"You're my favorite," my daughter tells her.
Mom is my favorite, too.
To all those who bear the title: Thanks, Mom. Thanks for showing us that hands need to be held, making sure we eat well and bringing new lives into the world. Thanks for doing a dozen jobs without pay and for smiling when you feel like yelling, and enduring things that would make a soldier run away. Thanks for bedtime songs and wake-up calls. Thanks for grace. And thanks for helping us remember the things that matter most.
James W. Miller is the author of the book "God Scent" and is on the pastoral team at First Presbyterian Church.