Mother’s Helper: Guest Post by Allie O. Williams

“Look what we found!” exclaimed our son, Rob. As the oldest & tallest he was the default spokesman, thrusting a muddy mitt in my face, his fist clutching a clay encrusted hunk of plastic. “It’s Mary and I found it,” cried our littlest neighbor Maggie firmly asserting her role. “But it was in our yard,” hollered our daughter, Elizabeth.

I grew up Catholic, in the 50’s & 60’s. A little family practice, cultivated by my Irish grandmother, was the “looking for signs”. It wasn’t needed as proof of God’s love but just as reinforcement of our faith.

When our children were 10 and 8, we learned we were moving to a small rural town from our long time home, due to a job change for my husband. We loved our lives in that place and it was an effort for me to leave. The day before the movers came, I was packing up the last of the kitchen stuff, looking out the window watching the kids & their friends playing one last time in our BIG back yard. The children had worked hard putting together a TIME CAPSULE which contained Lego’s and Barbie shoes and a note to the future discoverer describing the many happy hours that they had spent out there.

I was feeling pretty emotional about the whole thing and started to panic, worrying that we weren’t going to be “good enough” parents to help the kids through this transition. I have never felt more inadequate as a mom. Could I do it? “Mother of God, help me do this.” Our lives had been so blessed. We hadn’t faced any real challenges.

“Mother Mary, please help me,” I prayed as I packed & looked at the kids and their friends all huddled up and digging furiously to bury their time capsule, at the distant edge of the yard, up against a fence we had installed years before. Suddenly, they stopped their work. I could see them exchanging some excited conversation. The 5 of them congealed into a single unit of 10 legs & arms flailing furiously as they ran together & burst into the house.

“Look what we found!” exclaimed our son, Rob. As the oldest & tallest he was the default spokesman, thrusting a muddy mitt in my face, his fist clutching a clay encrusted hunk of plastic. “It’s Mary and I found it,” cried our littlest neighbor Maggie firmly asserting her role. “But it was in our yard,” hollered our daughter, Elizabeth.

You get the picture of the commotion & excitement. By now I was examining the statue. Sure enough, it was a cheap plastic statue of the Blessed Virgin. Where in the world did that come from? We’d been there 10 years. I was sure every square inch had been excavated in that time. Why did SHE bubble up from the yard the very moment I was praying for help? Right as I was asking myself if I was “enough” mother, I saw the kids stop their digging and start examining. It was a sign!!

In utter amazement, as I was fingering this 6 inch, tan, plastic statue I “heard” her respond to my query of being enough mother. “You silly girl, you haven’t done this by yourself so far and you wont have to do it alone from here on. You’ve watched the children out the kitchen window while, I’ve been against the fence. We’ve kept the children safely between us all these years. Now finish packing. We’ve got to move.”

I was immediately filled with calm and confidence and humbled that I received such a strong and obvious answer to my prayer. I’m not devout enough to expect such a wonderful blessing but maybe I needed it more than my other friends. Unceremoniously, I put the statue right in with the kitchen stuff.

A few days later, when we had been settled into the new house, I unpacked the kitchen goods that contained the curious statue and cleaned her up. I took the time to reflect on the experience & what I thought I heard the BVM say. She was right, we don’t parent alone. None of us are good enough parents to take such competent care of our kids and deliver them to adulthood unscathed. If we think we’re the Martha Stewart’s of motherhood, then we are participating in supreme arrogance. We have Divine help and protection throughout our lives and if we’re Catholic, we even get some ‘bonuses’. We have the Graces of a Sacramental marriage and we have the Blessed Mother to look out for us.

I decided not to re-bury her in the new yard but put her on the kitchen window sill. Backyard play sets gave way to bigger worries and I was grateful to have the physical reminder of the little statue. Parenting requires careful, humble & prayerful contemplation.

Discernment and wisdom are essential to lovingly guide children to adulthood, whole in body and soul. I used the time in the kitchen with my companion to mull over decisions and directions that my husband & I were contemplating regarding our children. Once they started driving, I turned her to face the general direction that the kids would be traveling, reminding them that in addition to their worried parents, the BVM, whose statue THEY found, was doing her best to watch over them, too. I think their personal experience with the little statue made them more responsible and careful.

Nearly grown up, it was time for college and our son went to Notre Dame. At the end of Freshman orientation, as my husband & I were walking away from his dorm, we were struggling with the usual parental anxieties. Not in my kitchen, out of sight of my friend Mary, I went right to the loop of thoughts in my head centered around fear whether he was going to be OK without us. For one last glance, I looked over my shoulder, back towards his dorm and saw him standing outside, meekly waving to us. A glint in the sky, drew my eyes upwards, past Rob as I was mumbling a prayer for his protection.

The glint was the famous golden dome which was shimmering brightly. Do you know what is on top of the golden dome? I didn’t until I received another of grandma’s signs. Our Blessed Mother is standing up there, with her arms outstretched over the students. She was perched on the dome and I was making my way to the car and our boy was standing between us, at the very beginning of his adult journey.

UPDATE: Today I received the following note from Allie:

“My best friend Sue called Monday morning, in great alarm. Her oldest daughter, 24 yr old Kate, was sick and in the hospital. Katie was one of the children who found the plastic statue of Mary that I wrote about in ‘Mother’s Helper.’ Now we call her Kate. She is idealistic, intelligent, talented and generous. She’s finishing up her Master’s in Public Health spending her summer in Africa, working with the poorest of the poor. In one of life’s cruelest ironies it seems that Kate is the one who is sick being gently tend to by those she sought to soothe. She’s suffering from Malaria and the stress of it agitated her usually well controlled asthma. She has pneumonia, also. Please pray for Kate.”

Allie O. Williams is the mother of two children, who were educated in Catholic schools from kindergarten through college. She has worked as a nurse and college instructor in education, and did health education for a Catholic pro-life organization. She and her husband of nearly 30 years live in Portsmouth, Ohio.

Originally published in WOMEN FOR FAITH & FAMILY Voices Online Edition Vol. XXIII, No. 2 Pentecost 2008

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