I was outraged last night when I saw my 6-year old J punching Mr. Bear in the face. I felt physically sick and became more upset than he could possibly understand.
I barked at him, "Put Mr. Bear in my room where he belongs!" He looked at me like I had lost my mind. I'm sure he was thinking to himself, "It's just a stupid stuffed animal!"
I really wanted to tell him what that little yellow bear means to me. I'm not smart enough to describe on a 1st grade level how that stuffed animal continues to impact my life. However, we're all adults, right? So, I figured I'd just tell you, instead.
For my 10th birthday, I wanted this really cool Schwinn bike and a pair of baby blue and pink Pro Wing tennis shoes for my birthday. I only told my Momma a gazillion times what I wanted - every detail of the color, brand, smell, feel, everything. So when I went to bed the night before my big day, I just KNEW I had my gifts on lock down. It was just a matter of waking up. I just KNEW it!
I woke up the next morning, which was a Monday, and got ready to go to school. I put on my nicest pink shirt that I knew would compliment my new shoes. Everyone needed to see the coordination, the planning, the final result.
I was in my Momma's room about 2 hours before I even had to be at school. The entire house was still dark. But of course, she was up. She was sitting in a chair in the corner of her room reading her Bible.
I walked in with a big smile. "Good morning, Momma." "Happy Birthday, baby," she said, and gave me a big hug. I peeped behind the chair while Momma was giving me the hug to see if I could get a quick preview of my gifts, but did not see anything. No worries. We had an awkward moment because I never had to actually ASK for my gifts before. Usually, when I woke up, they were on my bed or in the doorway of my room, or in the living room or the back porch. I had already checked those places and come up empty, so now I knew I would have to show my 10 years of maturity with an extra level of patience.
Keep in mind, I have not mastered the whole patient thing to this day. But I did not want to explode and lose out on my gifts, so I gave Momma about 45 seconds to up the loot, but still got nothing.
Finally, I just had to ask, "Momma, where are my presents?" She bit her lip for a second, and left the room. For the 30 seconds it took her, my heart was beating so loudly, I could barely contain myself. I start hopping and spinning in circles, singing, dancing. I had a mini-party going on for awhile. Then she returned.
She came back into the room with a half-smile. She was holding this pitiful yellow bear that I had seen earlier in a bag of second-hand clothes we were given that she sat on the back porch to wash. She held her arms out and said, "Here you go. Happy birthday, Baby."
What? Happy Birthday? Huh? What just happened? Is this a joke or something? No way!
I felt like Momma had betrayed me.
"Where's my bike? Where are my shoes?!! Where are my presents?" I asked.
Really quietly.. really slowly, she said, "Momma just did not have it this time!"
Before I could even think, I had thrown the bear to the other side of the room, said something disrespectful, and stomped out of the room. The house was still quiet, noone but me and her were even up. My 5 siblings did not really care what day it was. I did not expect them to. It was her job to make me happy on my birthday.
I gathered up every ugly thing I could say to make her pay for ruining the most important day of my life. I walked back into her room to let her have it, but never got to say them. When I walked up, I saw the one thing that would force humanity onto a spoiled ten-year old. I saw my Momma cry.
No, she did not have tears falling right and left. My Momma was proud and strong. She had been through A LOT, but I had never seen my Momma cry. Up until that moment, I did not think she ever did.
She had one single tear caught in the corner of her right eye. But when she looked at me, she smiled. Her smile reminded me of a lot of what I'd seen in my 10 short years. I had seen that smile when I was 4 and my brother kicked me in the face (by mistake) so hard it split the side of my mouth open. I passed out when I saw the blood, but when I recovered, I remembered seeing my Momma's beautiful smile. I had seen that smile on many of the days when the little boys in my neighborhood teased me for having nappy hair, big lips, and skinny legs. Out of the lips that held that smile, I always heard, "They don't see it now, but you are beautiful. You are so beautiful, and even better, you are smart." I had seen that smile after waiting at the door for 12 hours one time waiting for a dead-beat Dad that never showed up for a promised visit. I would not eat or drink while I waited because I did not want to get anything on my pretty dress. I was too weak and disgusted to even get up and walk away from the door when I realized he wasn't coming. Momma smiled when she picked me up and carried me into the kitchen to sit me down to eat.
I took in that single tear and that beautiful smile, and in that moment I grew up. I learned that in life you are not always going to get what you want, but if you have someone in your corner that loves you. . that really loves you, that's a gift in itself. . one that you will never outgrow.
I thank God that I learned how to love and recognize love so early on. I thank God for Momma. I thank God for Mr. Bear.