Thursday, June 12, 2008

The Popcorn Incident (or “Why we moms stick together”)

A writer friend of mine recently asked me to write the forward to her latest book. This friend lives in San Francisco, where things are very, very different than they are here in small town Ohio. But even as different as these places are, being a mom is the same no matter where you live, which is the point I was trying to get across.
So in writing the forward, I offered up this little anecdote which I think best summarizes my philosophy on motherhood...
It all started on a fall afternoon, when I was grossly pregnant with my third child. And because the veins in my legs had had just about enough of this pregnancy stuff, they gave out and I was required by my doctor to wear full length compression hose which I mention only because they made me flammable from head to toe. I was attempting to race (read: waddle) around the house, trying to achieve some order and neatness so that the playgroup friends who would be over in a short while to celebrate my son’s birthday wouldn’t think I had totally given up on cleanliness. But I also had to pick up my oldest daughter from school. All at the same time.
At this point you may ask yourself, “why would she plan things so close together? Why wouldn’t she give herself some more time?” Let me tell you, the thought crossed my mind. But in order for everyone to be happy (read: except me), this is what had to be done.
And I also had to make “sweetie popcorn,” my son’s favorite snack, for the gathering. So there, belly bulging, I poured the oil, sugar, salt, and popcorn kernels into the pot. I cranked up the stove and began the popping process. When it came time to start shaking the pot so that the bottom kernels didn’t turn into a black burnt mess, I grabbed some potholders to protect my hands.
To make a short story long, I caught one of the potholders on fire so I had to run it to the sink which meant that I was creating that black burnt mess in the pot. So I ran back to the stove, turned it off, and whipped the lid off the pot to cool down the contents and stop the cooking process.
And then a sticky kernel shot right out and burnt a big red dot into my forehead, just above my right eyebrow.
Somehow I managed to find a moment to be thankful that I hadn’t caught my entire body on fire before I raced out the door to pick up my eldest child and back home just in time greet our playdate friends. While the kids played, I had to explain to the other moms why I looked the way I did and why I was telling them to eat the darn popcorn because I lost valuable skin (and a potholder) for my son’s special snack.
And they ate it, and they laughed, because they understood.
They understood why I did the things I did, because they do them too. We’re all just a bunch of nuts, but nuts that go together, bound by our maternal job description.
We’re women, we’re mothers. We stick together like caramelized popcorn to forehead skin because in understanding each other’s stories, we become better mothers. That’s why we need to hear the tales of other mommies’ mishaps and story-time struggles. We need to hear that we’re not the first to watch a baby fall off the bed, and we need to hear that if it happens, baby will be OK. We need to see that we’re not the only one in the world going gray over where to send our kids to preschool. We need to know, even in our weakest moments, that we do what we do because we love our kids and that most importantly, we are not alone in this, the second hardest job in the world.
The first hardest, if you didn’t know, is making “sweetie popcorn.”

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