(You'll forgive the out of focus iPhone photos, won't you?)
We recently returned from a vacation to Chicago. The last (and first time) we went to Chicago was 15 years ago when a dear friend got married. My mom, Ben (who was only a toddler) and I spent one or two days in the Windy City and really didn't see much. This time, however, we planned a thorough visit and stayed in the heart of downtown Chicago. The guys wanted to center the trip around baseball which made for a fun time for them. They saw the Cubs, the White Sox and even took a short road trip to Milwaukee to watch a Brewers game. This left plenty of time for the girls and I to go shopping, swimming and have some girly fun.
I made reservations for lunch at Chicago's American Girl Cafe. I imagined it to be such a special afternoon and the girls and I looked so forward to sharing lunch there. We were told that the girls could bring their dolls and that chairs would be provided for them as well. I wasn't certain whether Mae would sit for a fancy lunch but opted to bring her and her Bitty Baby (whose name is Flower by the way). I am so glad Mae came along.
As we walked into the restaurant, I felt a certain heaviness in my chest that has become a common feeling since my mom died. So many times, when we are doing something fun or happy, I pause for a moment and wish she were there alongside me and my family. I thought how pleased she'd be with the restaurant, the tea and the day spent with the girls. I didn't want my feelings to ruin the meal or the day but I found myself choking back tears as we sat down to eat. After we were seated, our waitress brought a small appetizer of vegetables, fruit and cheese stuffed pretzels which the girls really enjoyed. She also placed a small pink box on our table that contained something she called Table Talkers which were, essentially, just small strips of paper that contained a topic for pleasant conversation.
Mary pulled the first paper from the box and read it aloud, "What is your favorite book and why?". Then Anne pulled her paper from the box, "What is your favorite childhood memory?" Each of the girls shared a special moment and I choked out, "Drinking tea with my mother." It's funny to me that if I were to have one last hour to spend with my mother, I would spend it sitting across from her at the table drinking one last cup of tea. Some people might want to do something exciting or adventurous, something truly memorable with their loved one. But tea was a daily sharing for my mom and I and would be my one wish.
When the box was passed to me, I chose my slip of paper which read, "Describe your dream job." The girls shared a number of things that they might like to be such as a mommy, a marine biologist, a horse lesson teacher, etc. When it came time for me to give my answer, I stuttered and stumbled about my answer because, as I was speaking, it occurred to me. I am living my dream job.
My dream twenty years ago was to stay home with my children and spend daily time with each of them, to cook for them, clean for them, read stories to them, to braid their hair and play catch with them and cheer them up when they are sad. And somewhere, along the way, I'd lost sight of the fact that I am living that dream on a daily basis. A huge smile spread across my face and I said, "My dream is to spend each day being your mommy." The girls smiled and laughed and said I was sure lucky to be able to be the mommy of so many children.
How shortsighted I've been lately, going through my days like a horse with its blinders on. How apathetic I've been about the opportunity to wake each morning and be doing exactly what I had dreamt of for so many years! I realized that I need to act like I am working at my dream job. My family should know how wonderful my life is by the smile on my face each day. My tone of voice should reflect the happiness in my heart. I should speak to my children the same way those cheerful, polite Chic-fil-a workers talk to each and every customer! Do you know what I mean? They speak sweetly and respectfully to even the difficult and cantakerous customers! Can I answer each of my children's many demands with "My pleasure" ? Because I should be able to do so daily if I am cognizant that I am living my dream, working my dream job.
Funny that Mae (who was only one when my mother died and really should have no memory of her) blurted out during our dessert in a sweet voice, "My grandma in heaven would weeeeeeally wuv dis pretty place!" It made me happy that someone other than myself was thinking of her and missing her just a wee bit.