What Weight is On Your Mama Bear Heart This Morning?

(9 minute read)

I am late getting my post out on this Monday morning for two reasons. The first is that I woke to tragic news that weighs heavily on my heart. Not far from here is a college campus with students sheltering in place because a shooter is somewhere on the grounds. There are parents of at least three children who will learn devastating news about their child. Every other parent with a son or daughter who texted with them throughout the night is saddled with concerns, questions, and relief. I have a son at a college in North Carolina. I would think that a difficult part of this would be hearing the fear and emotions of my child over the phone and not being able to zip over to his campus and get him out of there. Isn’t that what we did when they were little and the school nurse called us? Because until they left for college most often our children were within the bubble of our mother bear protective sphere. Most often. Then something tragic that nobody could have ever predicted takes place…a school shooting. We have seen this at elementary schools, high schools, and colleges. Unimaginable for a parent. So before I move on to the second reason for my late post, I send condolences to all those grieving parents of school shootings, most especially to the ones who woke up this morning to this horrific news.

A mother’s heart is fragile and strong. Fragile, because at any given moment life can change in a small or big way. Strong, because from my experience with raising four children I have found and witnessed that we mothers are capable of weathering far more than we think we can. To handle the big things and the little things, we need to draw strength and support from our family and friends, but also rely on our natural mama bear instincts. This brings me to the next reason my post is late. Admittedly, this will not sound like a big thing (and in light of the morning news it is not big). However, anytime I receive a text or call from one of my children and they are sick, I jump into mama bear mode. “Oh sweet lamb, how can I help?” My daughter woke up with that high fever respiratory illness that is going around. As I said, this is nothing compared to the news other moms are receiving today. What it did make me notice is how quickly I can shove aside anything on my plate to deal with something for my children. I jumped into my car with a sack of crackers, soup, orange juice and fever reducing medicine, all before I even poured myself coffee. A fun game blog post I had written will be saved for another Monday. Instead, today I am choosing to share something I wrote about my mother when she would take care of me when I was sick. From my perspective, I felt loved and cared for. Who knows what she had planned for her day before I woke up ill. The piece illustrates how much much the little details stick with us through the years.

“Mommy, I don’t feel well,” I moaned. My head ached and my tummy hurt as I curled up on the sofa with my legs tucked under my long nightie. My mom placed the back of her hand on my forehead and felt for warmth. After she hustled my sisters out the door to catch the bus to school, she returned to my side with the thermometer in hand. She shook it in several downward thrusts through the air. “Open up,” she said, and reminded me not to bite the glass thermometer but to keep it underneath my tongue. It was cold and poked into the soft pocket under my tongue. I pressed my lips close together to hold it in place. The length of time lasted forever. Finally she came and sat at my side and pulled it out, tilting it to read where the red line ended. “Oh, sweet lamb, you’ve got a fever.” Then the love, attention and pampering began.

First she gave me two orange flavored chewable Josephs baby aspirin. She spread out a blanket on the sofa, with a soft cotton bed pillow for me to lay my head on (instead of the scratchy weave of the upholstered arm of the sofa). Then she lay another light blanket over me, the kind with the satin edged hem. On my forehead she placed a cool damp washcloth. The house felt so different on a school day, my three sisters not here making noise or taking my mom’s attention, just the sounds of my mom doing what she does while we are at school. I heard her talking on the phone. Then when it was quiet, I wondered, maybe she is making lists on her yellow note pads. Maybe she is cooking, or reading or sewing. She came in to get me settled, and turned on the TV across the room. We chose the channel and that’s what I watched (no remote control), and set the volume loud enough for me to hear, but not too loud to hurt my head. It was either game shows, like Let’s Make a Deal or The Price is Right, or the black and white shows. I loved those. The Andy Griffith Show, The Dick Van Dyke Show, I love Lucy, and The Beverly Hillbillies. My mom came in to check on me often, with kind gentle soothing words.

Then came the soup. She laid the whole lunch out on a serving tray. A napkin, a spoon, the bowl of Campbell’s chicken noodle soup, some round salty ritz crackers, and an orange sliced into fourths. The magical healing soup: the ceramic edge of the bowl hot to the touch. Little wisps of steam rising. Thick noodles resembling spaghetti but nowhere near as strong or long. Tiny cubes of chewy chicken. I float a few crackers while waiting for the soup to cool, spooning the softened rapidly dissolving salty ritz into my mouth. Bite by bite, I blow on the spoon and then empty the noodles and chicken into my mouth. The liquid remaining in the bowl was thought to contain the most nutrient dense weapons for fighting off the infection. The bowl now cool enough to hold in my two hands, and lift up to my mouth, I tipped it until every last drop was consumed. “Good girl,” my mom says. After lunch she checked my temperature again, and gave me more baby aspirin if needed. Wanting me to nap, she turned off the television and read me a book or two. I didn’t mind the tv going off since the programing turned to boring romantic soap operas around lunch.

The day stretched out for a long time, so different that a day spent busy at school with a schedule of subjects, recess and constant interaction with other people. By evening time, I grew restless. If my sickness had not improved it was soup again and then off to bed. I remember the feeling of waking with damp sheets signaling that I’d broken my fever. The other indicator of my recovery was when my appetite returned. For some reason, it would be a cheeseburger that I would ask for when I reached that point. Not that it was a cheeseburger that I was given, but it was something more than soup. Toast, and eggs maybe. I was a pretty healthy child growing up, and did not miss many days of school. I was active and liked going to school. And yet…there was something special about staying home alone with my mom, getting her undivided attention, and love in the most nurturing way. Nobody likes to feel sick, but I was glad that my immune system let germs infect me once in awhile.

Reading this after COVID is interesting; we will never think of immunity and germs in the same way again. Something else to note is that right now both my mom and my dad are fighting bad colds. We spoke on the phone yesterday and my mom was coughing and my dad was next to her sounding stuffed up. They are all the way in California and I am here in Virginia. I wish I could bring them some Campbell’s soup on a tray. I will have to settle for sending them love through this blog post. As for my daughter, I will pop over whenever she needs me. This stuff that’s going around lingers, my son had it for over a week during Halloween. Maybe we need to mask up again in crowded places if we want to stay well.

I want to close by sending thoughts to all the mama bears out there caring for sick children, and my prayers for all the families grieving this morning.

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