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A Smile Amidst the Tears

November 16, 2015

I wanted to write about how I felt when I heard about the slaughter in Paris this past Friday. I wanted to find words that would help me and others heal. I wanted to find words to make sense on what is going on in the world.

I couldn’t find the words. I really couldn’t.

Instead, I offer a silly memory in hopes it brings smiles to those who read it.

I’m writing about a moment in my life when my mother realized I held all the power. Seriously held the power. I was about three. You read that right. I was three when I knew I had power over my mother.

It goes like this. When I was still in diapers, my dear mom used to nuzzle my neck and pound on my diaper. I’d giggle and laugh. She’d giggle and laugh. This went on from probably my first birthday until I was toilet trained. It was a game that we loved. Three came with no diapers. Mom would pat my little buttocks lightly. The game continued.

One day, I did something bad. I have no clue what it was. Mom didn’t remember, but she remembered what happened next. She said she grabbed my arm and spanked me. Right across the little buttocks she’d so often patted in jest. I must have thought it was a variation on our favorite game, albeit one that stung a bit. I laughed. She get even madder. She swatted me again. I laughed again. And kept laughing. Two swats was all it took for my mom to realize spanking would never work. I would always giggle at her.

I maintained the power until my mom changed tactics. She put me in my little rocking chair, pushed into a corner and ignored me. I hated being ignored. I whimpered and cried, and as I got older threw a tantrum or two. She continued ignoring me until I was silent. It didn’t take long. She’d pull the chair out of the corner and ask why I was sitting there. I’d blubber again and tell her what I’d done wrong. We’d hug and kiss and make up.

Now that we are adults, when are we going to kiss and make up? Isn’t it time?

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1 Comment

  • Reply Dean Robertson November 16, 2015 at 11:58 am

    Good morning, Betsy, and thank you so much. When I heard the news I was sitting around a friend’s dining room table with her partner of fifteen years and two former students I hadn’t seen in thirty years. It was already an emotionally charged moment. I put my laptop on the table and found the video of the President singing “Amazing Grace” at the funeral in Charleston. We watched and listened and cried and were grateful for each other. There are pockets of love and trust even in this world. I am reminded of a creation story from the Jewish mystical tradition in which the vessels containing the diving light that is supposed to create a perfect world shatter and the light is scattered everywhere. And so we have this imperfect world with a spark of divine light behind every bush. Our job is to gather up those sparks and renew the world. I believe each of us, in these small ways, is doing just that. I am so very sorry about Paris. I am so very sorry for this brokenness. But here we are.

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