Made for This

When I was young, I knew that some things made me happier than other things. Some activities satisfied me deeply (music-making, reading, babysitting); other activities were, variously, either diversions (like birthday parties), or semi-interesting chores (folding laundry), or loathed activities forced upon me (vigorous sweaty exercise done in teams or groups or classes, which is most certainly the most horrid use of time ever invented). When I was young, I knew my likes and dislikes.

What I did not yet know, because I had not yet found the full measure of my own self, was the experience of that deepest, most permeating, most rooted and transcendent moment which has this name: I Was Made for This. Yesterday, I had such a moment.

There have been a few of these over time. When I had the whole running of the classroom for the first time as a student teacher, I knew. I was made for this. I was not in control of it; the phenomenon which is teaching and learning and education is much larger than anything any one person can (or should try to) control. I did not make it; I had entered it. And I knew that I was home. As surely as if I had entered a house with all the cupboards exactly where I would put them, full of precisely the right things, and windows, doors, stairs, and roof lines arranged in elegant proportion, I knew that I was home.

The day my husband proposed to me - that was another day when I knew that I was home.
"If ever two were one, then surely we.
If ever man were loved by wife, then thee;
If ever wife was happy in a man,
Compare with me ye women if you can."
(Anne Bradstreet, "To My Dear and Loving Husband")

That was a day when I knew for sure that I stepped into my future with the first steps I took after he got up off his knee so we could kiss each other, and walk together out of the park near the Rose Gardens. In him, I found my home - and in me, he found his.

Cradling my tiny newborns - those moments too were moments when I knew, I was made for this. With each new baby, something inside of me shifted, came together, met. Whatever it takes, whatever I need to do or be or cease from, while this child is in my care, this is a life I want. Some people take to it easily and calmly, and whether it's a matter of personality, genetics, or the years of babysitting combined with the fact that my older sister conveniently had her children while I was still a girl, I took to mothering as easily and calmly as if I were popping a sweatshirt over my head on a chilly day -- (and as totally and stubbornly and fiercely as a mother lion). Instinctively, I knew, I was made for this.

Made for this. For classrooms, teaching, learning, education ... and now a return to school. For marriage, and for this man, come hell or high water, feast or famine, kids here or not, when it's funny and when it shreds our souls. Made for writing too. Impassioned journal entries, and earnest "notes" to friends and sweethearts when I was so relentlessly, earnestly, hopelessly young. Lesson plans and catechism and poetry and letters. Blog entries and school assignments and love letters to my husband even now. Always made for writing. And yesterday - yesterday I knew the moment again, with a kind of mild and laughable surprise.

Yesterday, I sat in my pew at church with two tiny little girls, one on either side. Kids from my class - their daddies serving at the altar - their mommies home for family reasons. Yesterday, in church, the two little girls were mine. They stood and followed the words in the hymnal with only a few (loudly) whispered "where are we?" times, and they sang with gusto. They knelt beside me until they couldn't quite stand any more nose-to-pew contact, and then sat back. They sat beside me ... and in a quiet moment, when both little girls were trying with all their might to hold still and pay attention, it came to me again.

Lately, my life has been expanding so quickly in every direction simultaneously. My own children grew up and got lives of their own. I have gone back to school, and my brain is opening from the inside so enormously that it feels like some kind of bursting out into the open even though it is all interior and invisible. The tectonic shifts and cataclysms and seasons and tidal waves have all seemed so huge that I thought the tiny little girls and boys in my life might be moving out of range and disappearing from my view. I do not recognize anything around me anymore, and I do not recognize even my own self these days. The small children, I thought, are probably gone too - or will be soon.

But no. Yesterday, I looked down and saw those petite little hands folded together in perfect imitation of my grown up hands. In that (brief) moment of stillness, I realized, I was made for this. These two little girls, and all the goofy, worried, clueless, squirmy, serious, silly, random, hilarious little girls and boys who ever cross my path, or sit in one of my classrooms, or participate in one of my programs (every one of which is an echo of the "plays" we used to inflict on our parents when we were young and goofy and random) -- all of the boys and girls who are ever near me -- they are all mine, and I am theirs, and I was made for this. And I am very glad to know it.

(the clipart is from here -- isn't it good? Makes me think of Farrell's Ice Cream)

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