Those first weeks of mothering had me in an undead shuffle about the house, eyes heavy, hair sloppily pulled back, last night’s plates still in the sink, sheets in the wash for the third time that week because of my little one’s contributions. I felt totally inadequate, as if nothing I could manage would be enough. The feeling rises as if to drown me at different times for so many reasons, but there is rest in knowing I am not the sum of my accomplishments on a list.
A lost balloon is a simple thing, but it’s a real loss to a child. Then we grow up, and we feel these same kinds of losses every day. A lost relationship. A lost job. A foreclosure on a home. Lost innocence. The loss of addiction. Bankruptcy. A lost reputation. We can try to explain the chemical makeup of the lost balloon to make it appear less meaningful. We can make up a sensible reason for that balloon to have been better off released into the sky. We can try to diminish what the balloon meant to us in the first place. But we cannot cheat sorrow. Loss shapes us. As do the friends that are there with us on the lawn when the balloon string slips out of our hands.
I use it sometimes now, when it’s my turn to bless our food before dinner and I am tired or worried or simply can’t think of anything to say. The familiar rhythm of the words comforts me, carrying with it echoes of the many people who have prayed it before me, and those who still pray it around their tables. It brings me back to those summer days at Mimi and Papaw’s, standing barefoot on the kitchen tile, hand-in-hand with the people I loved the most. Now, as I face my husband across our own dinner table, it sums up everything I want to say:
Come, Lord Jesus, be our guest, and let this food to us be blessed.
So rather than read further, which would’ve been much easier, I decided to take the ballpoint pen and lined notebook paper and draw what was right before me — and do it quickly, without proper paper or the need to prettify my work. I did opt for color because the green was so lush and bright with the afternoon sunlight shining through the leaves, so I found a couple of green markers and sat there in the sun happily coloring away, like I often did as a child. Did I capture the head of Romaine perfectly? Not at all. But did I begin to glimpse its infinite beauty, the curtain of one leaf folded inside another, the veins like tiny circuitry? I did, indeed.
I have a wonderful doctor, who always treats me with affection and skill, but as I sat in the waiting room I’d wondered what she could possibly recommend next. At 84, just when one ailment gets fixed — with a new knee, hearing aids, glasses, medication — something else is bound to go. It’s become a kind of routine.
I was overdue for help, both physical and spiritual. And there she was, this small anonymous messenger from God.