Today during church she reached for my hand, as she often does. She likes to snuggle close while her daddy stands on the platform, she and I, huddled together on the front row, next to the clock that keeps our favorite preacher-man from talking too long.
She turned my hand over, examining the lines, the freckles, the plain fingernails, and the long fingers that I inherited from my dad. And, she ran her soft baby fingers over the callouses on my palm. I saw her furrowed brow as she came to the rough spots. Her father spoke about judgment and justice and Jesus.
When church was over, she asked me why my hands feel that way. I told her, simply, that mamas get callouses because we work hard. I could see my words sinking in as she nodded until her braids bounced. Yes, she said. They do. Too bad I have to be one.
I laughed out loud at her honest assessment of motherhood.
After a moment, I said, Oh, but it’s all worth it.
My heart was instantly flooded with a million scenes from the past ten years that prove that this life is worth it all. I thought of all the things I could tell her, all the secrets of mothering that she can’t know until she is sitting up at 3:00am with her newborn. I thought of all the ways that I could try to explain the heartache, the backache, the neck-breaking pace of it. The beauty, the anguish, and the blood-pressure-rising of it. I thought of the long days, the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it years. So many things I could’ve said to the child who gave me the gift of motherhood. But, these secrets are best kept for late-night phone calls when she has tried everything to get her baby to sleep.
Secrets for the day when she looks into the eyes of her own child, and she realizes, truly for the first time, how very much I love her. Secrets for the first days of our shared experience–mothers both–the gigantic, heart-exploding love of this position, this job, this calling.
Someday, when she reaches for my hand, by then softened with age, I will run crooked fingers across her palms, and when I stop at the rough spots, I will smile. Because I know that mothers work hard. And the callouses bring with them all the secrets that keep an old woman warm at night.
But, today, I just smiled at my first-born and held her hand as we walked out of church. I squeezed her soft fingers and tried to imprint in my mind their little-ness. Because I know someday, when she is gone and living out her motherhood, her soft baby hands and this day will be two of the precious secrets that I hold close.