Friday, July 31, 2009

"I am collecting a collection..."

I have a secret wish. It involves one day moving to Scotland where my children can bicycle to school every morning while I dash off to classes at the University of St. Andrews Divinity School.

This afternoon, during naptime, I indulged in a peculiar form of escapism: perusing the staff profiles at St. Andrews. One resident scholar had written an entire book on the uses of food in the Old Testament.
The very idea set me spinning: Can you imagine, I thought to myself, devoting hundreds of hours to elucidating something so singular? I sighed. The life of the academic involves, among other things, the ability – and might I add, luxury – of being able to mono-focus.

No sooner had this thought flitted through my brain than a cacophony of events unfolded simultaneously. I recount them in no particular order: one Audrey Sophia noisily emerged from her bedroom dragging a mass of crumpled blankets and begging for “cholkie” (a.k.a. chocolate); Evangeline Grace (who had been sleeping soundly in her swing), was roused by the jangling of her big sister’s door and began to root in search of food; my cell phone, perched on the corner of the kitchen counter, erupted in vibrations and succeeded in clattering to the floor; and finally, the oven, in which one medium-sized chicken was roasting in its juices, began to hiss and smoke.

I took the chicken out of the oven, sat Audrey in her chair before a small bowl of blueberries and half a dozen “Ms” (that is, M & Ms), picked up a now wailing Evie and proceeded to nurse her while returning a missed call from Dutch.

I laughed to myself. Isn’t this motherhood? The art of applying oneself simultaneously to five, seemingly unrelated subjects (whether topics or persons), and then somehow attempting to blend them together into some sort of synchronized picture of cohesion?

Most of the time, the outcome falls a little wide of the mark, and there is that voice in the back of your mind chiding you for never quite getting it right, for always leaving something amiss…

But then I remembered that “I am collecting a collection.” The quotation emanates from one of my favorite scenes in the BBC animated children’s series, Charlie and Lola, in which Charlie, who has proven himself to be quite the expert dinosaur collector, is sitting with his little sister Lola, examining – with evident disdain – her supposed ‘collection:’ a seashell, a ruler, a hair bauble, etc.

To the outward observer, Lola’s collection, like many a mother’s life, looks like nothing more than a mishmash of unrelated items trying to pass themselves off as “respectable.”

‘That’s not a collection!” howls Charlie. “A collection is meant to be a collection of things that all go together.” It must be made up of “…all of the same kind of thing.”

“But they do go together,” insists Lola, “because I collected them for all the very same reason.”

What reason could it be, wonders Charlie in exasperation? Is it a collection of things that people don’t need?

At last, Lola illuminates the mystery: “Mine is a proper collection," she insists. "It's a collection of things that people do need...and that I can give to them…and which will make them very, very pleased.”
The seashell, as it turns out, doubles as a jewelry tray for Mother; the ruler is for Daddy who is always measuring things; and the hair bauble is on its way back to Lola’s best friend, who had lost it “ages and ages ago.”

I am not now (and will probably never be) an expert in the uses of food in Old Testament literature, but I am certainly, like many a mother, an expert collector... of sorts.

For although my life may seem, at a given moment, to be nothing but a mishmash of seemingly unrelated experiences, each of them is making it possible for me to gain possession of certain character qualities – qualities such as patience, kindness, and self-control – which I would otherwise lack; and which, when shared, have the added benefit of "pleasing" - or blessing - other people.

My collection, like Lola’s, does go together. You just have to be looking at it through the right set of spectacles.


B Dunlap said...

Heather, this is a great post. I stumbled upon your blog by way of Lindsey's....and I recognized you from having met briefly the other night at La Encantada. Just wanted to say hello!

Mrs Bic said...

I LOVE it! I have found myself with the same kind of collections! Isn't the mommy thing so strange and interesting? Here's to the embrace of the Lord's design for our lives RIGHT NOW...knowing He will continue to evolve us for HIS Glory! I look forward to reading your thoughts more!

Jenn Bickerton