My mom made me this dress for Alt Summit in January. Because that's how she do.
I’ve got a good friend in California. Her cakes are glorious, her home decor is on budget and beyond lovely, she usually smells like cookies and Chanel No 5. This is the kind of woman that Martha Stewart poaches ideas from, she’s that bleeping good at what she does. It’s wonderful. We talked a few days ago, going over the events of the past week. After a few laughs, she got quiet and then started talking again,
“Get this. It was Gloria’s preschool graduation and we were all supposed to make poster boards about our kids to hang up during the ceremony thing. Kind of like a retrospective on the year. Photos, their likes, dislikes, you know. Well, I got excited. Gloria loves it when I make her things, so I decided to put some time and thought into it. I figured it could hang in her room for the next little while. So, you know me, I used reclaimed wood instead of posterboard. Framed the photos with vintage lace and millinery flowers. Got some plastic toys of her favorite animals at the thrift shop, spray painted them and had them parading around the thing. It was like this really fun hot mess. Anyways, I showed up the night before graduation to set it up in the classroom. When I got there, one of the moms took one look at my little creation and turned to the women around her and said,
‘Well, I guess we know who wants to win mother of the year.’
It was so embarrassing. Gloria just likes when I make her things and I knew it would make her feel special. But I just ended up feeling like an idiot. I am so glad we are done with the moms at that school. But then, of course, there will be moms at the next school and I don’t really know if they’ll be any better.”
I said some encouraging words and then hung up to go make dinner. And I don’t know if it was just the heat in the kitchen, but the longer I stirred the soup the hotter I felt. I was literally sweating with anger. How dare that woman? Who was she to make ANYONE’S effort a thing of shame? Who made her Queen of the Mean Girl Squad?
I’m well acquainted with women like that. I spent my childhood watching them form circles outside of my mom’s reach. My mom was the mom with the over the top projects. The Native American dioramas with real tiny beef jerky drying in tiny villages. The bunny in the kindergarten with a hand painted face and hand sewn dress based on an American Girl doll pattern. I was the girl that showed up with magazine ready goody bags on my birthday.
And you know what? That is how my mom showed her love. She’s dealt with depression her whole life, she’s fought her past and won and sometimes lost, she’s been unsure and unheard. She’s always found herself through creating and she’s always shown others she knows and loves them through creation. But the women around her didn’t understand that. They thought her professional looking baked goods and high heels meant she was snubbing them.
A lovely example. I was five and we’d just moved into a new town. My mom showed up to a church social all done up, her hands full of a black bottom pie and glistening sugar cookies. She was smiling because she was so damn unsure. So worried no one would talk to her. She smiled like that all night. She had to because no one even said hi to her. A few months later, she’d made some friends. She told them about that night and one of them snorted in disgust.
“Oh, yeah. I wasn’t there. But you know, Marie was there. She came up to me after you and I started being friendly and asked if you were a bitch. I guess only a bitch shows up with lipstick and pie in her world.”
What. The. Hell.
Sisters. It’s enough. Listen. I’m not the one smiling with lipstick and a homemade pie. My kids will never have professionally staged diorama or historically accurate handmade costumes. I don’t show my love that way. And I couldn’t if I tried. (Literally couldn’t. You should see me try to make ANYTHING. It is painful.) But I am comfortable setting my store bought rolls next to the heavenly creations of the woman down the street. Because we are all enough. We are all beloved and loving. We have got to stop judging others against our seething insecurity and smug sense of self-righteousness.
Don’t you see? We need one another. We need the masterpieces of each others lives. And mine doesn’t look like yours. Thank the heavens. How would we form a whole if we were all the same? How are we supposed to lift each other up to the heights when we are all so busy pushing down against what we perceive as the different, the intimidating, the not how I do it so it must be excessive, out of bounds, ridiculous, worthy of contempt? Why have we lost the ability to glory in one another? Did we ever have it? Let’s get it and hold onto that beautiful thing with clenched fists. Let's pass it on to our daughters. Let's stop all of this nonsense. Now.
There were days, months and even a few years when my mom could hardly make herself get out of bed to face the world. But still, even in those moments of darkness, she found a way to make that school project, sparkle that dress, cook that chef worthy birthday dinner. And as I held the thing she made, I knew - I KNOW - I was holding a product of her love for me.
And honestly, anyone who would intentionally make her, or any other woman, feel like less because of that can go straight to hell.
I mean that from the very bottom of my store bought cupcake heart.