The pew feels anxious beneath me as I sit beside my mother contemplating the ways to tell her that I have stolen from her.
Mom, I stole something from you. Mom, I stole a lot of stuff from you.
It doesn’t help that we are in church. That I am trying to find ways to come clean of my thieving ways as we are asked to rise and open up our hymn books.
I have no intention of stopping. I am not going to stop stealing from you.
It is moments like this one where life actually playing out like a soap opera would be terribly convenient. With Dramatic Pauses. And Intense Monologues. Because then I would have no problem saying out loud that I have been stealing since the day my soul learned to wrap pieces of my mother into swaddling clothes, tucking each piece carefully into the crib like compartments of my heart. That would be easier to admit if I had a 2p.m. time slot on One Life to Live.
I don’t think it is ever easy to tell someone these kinds of things. It is not so casual to say, “Oh, it is no big deal, Charlotte just rented out a room in my soul and spun a web out of your being so that I can keep parts of you forever.” No Big Deal.
Those kind of words don’t just plop themselves into conversations beside dirty dishes and student loans.
There were once days where I testified that I would never grow up to be like my mother. Someone should have placed a bet with me then that I would one day change my mind. They would be a piggy bank richer right now. These days I find myself getting down on knees, knees that have only felt the ground for 22 years, to pray to be Half of my Mother.
I’ve looked around. I’ve calculated. It would take seven cups of wisdom, eight plates of courage, four doses of compassion and a lifetime of selflessness to ever be 3/4’s of the whole that is my Mother.
And I wonder if she already knows that I am a thief. That I have stolen the way she looks at life. The Way She Greets the Sun. Stolen the way she dances whenever a band shows up or even when there is no music at all because it just feels so good to have legs that can move. Stolen the way she Injects Humanity into every person she encounters.
Maybe I will start smaller. Smaller Robberies. Easier to Admit to Her.
The way she writes down words, scribbles messages onto stray papers and receipts. The way she spoons an avocado or brews drip coffee from a red kettle. Her love for little trinkets: worry dolls, cards with mismatched envelopes. All into a Big Thief Bag.
I would say it if I could: that I have scrapbooked all the love she has ever given me. That when my own daughter grows up and spends her first holiday away from me and finds herself terribly homesick I will mail her a Yellow Towel.
A Pristine Yellow Towel.
Not because she needs one but because the color will be so spectacular. She’ll hold it to her face and I will think of her as I cut the turkey. The silverware won’t shine as brightly that year. I already know it.
But most of all, I have stolen her stories and the ways that she tells them. After all, since I was a little girl I have taken shelter within these very stories as if they were Pink Plastic Playhouses Sitting Pretty by the Patio. Resting my head beneath a roof made out of cross country road trips and painting days at the beach. Her strong, endearing narratives leave me closing my eyes to build maps in my head. Her voice– dipping and tightening– points out destinations upon my Mind Maps. Compassion here. Resilience there. Spirituality around this bend. Goodness along this road.
Everyday with my mother is a day full of stealing.
Robbing. Burglarizing. Pilfering. Thieving.
And there is no way to tell her this, that I am stealing, stealing, stealing in hopes that one day, when we no longer sit side by side in pews, she will have seeped deep enough into my bones that I can tell her stories to others as she would have liked. No way to tell her that I won’t be able to handle the day where we don’t sit side by side if that web within me is not fully cloaked in her Stories, Traits, & Wisdom to pass and pay forward to a world that needs them desperately. I’ll tell friends about Yellow Towels & Avocados. I’ll tell my own children about Mexican Hot Chocolate and Sunflowers in the Sky.I’ll tell strangers, children, the elderly & foreigners. I will tell anyone with open ears about the day I learned to steal from a woman who danced for every occasion and held a heart within her that ached and bent for the happiness of others.