Once upon a time, down the hill and around the curve, there lived a small woman in a castle of painted brick and siding. As the flowers bloomed brightly and the vines curled gently up the wall, the woman prepared for her day of honor: a day when the small folk in her care brought tokens of love, thanks and devotion for her days of tireless service.
The woman, who thought herself queen over her realm, received gifts of breakfast, priceless art, blossoms and praise as she reclined on her pillowed throne. The sun lit her day, as the small ones brought smiles into her presence.
Later in this day of tribute, the tides began to turn. There was a shift in the small folk’s demeanor.
Thus began the siege.
It began with a small rebellion by a 5-year-old boy, who called strike upon his labors. No laundry would he fold, no dishes would he put away, no rooms would he clean! He attacked the firm walls of authority with persistent whining, crying and the stomping of feet.
The woman, adept at handling unruly charges, placed him calmly in the corner of reflection until he relinquished his fight. As she took on his labors and folded the clothes of the residents, the boy continued his barrage of shrill protest, chipping rhythmically against the walls of her patience.
Fighting back against the siege, the woman hummed calming melodies as she attempted to retain her stalwart composure. But the battery did not cease.
Hours later, the dinner bell announced the time to serve the feast. The woman, offering treasures of coin to the oldest small one, farmed out the undone chores to the responsible peasant. Meanwhile, a tiny villager ransacked the palace kitchens, scattering plates and bowls all over the dirty floor. The boy continued his attack with tears and the gnashing of teeth, wearing down the resolve of the barely-standing battlements.
The feast of just-enough leftovers, with a side of yogurt and a salad, was laid upon the table. The villagers gathered to eat, the siege thankfully paused. The woman bent to repair the destroyed kitchen, only to turn and discover that the yogurt had been mistaken for sour cream, and was being mixed into the dinner – a frightful concoction.
By this time, the smallest charge was crying for bed, but the weary ruler had to quickly find another suitable dinner from the meager rations left in the kitchen. The siege began again, as the young boy cried for sour cream – a delicacy not available on this day of motherly tribute.
The outlying ramparts of the woman’s psyche were overtaken. Orders were issued in militaristic fashion: Finish your dinner! Put on your nightclothes! Tidy your room! Don’t wake the baby!
Stepping off to the other side of the castle, the queen rocked the smallest one to sleep. As she returned to the refectory, she finds the boy’s plate untouched, as he reclines cross-legged in a chair, fully clothed, fully playing on a confiscated toy. Her blood boils and eyes widen.
Enraged, she masters herself, and with an eerie calm orders him directly to his chambers, where she finds piles of unfolded clothes, laboriously folded but moments before. The remaining defenses crumble and are blasted by the boy’s mercilessly flowing complaints, tears and wails. The battle escalates to crying and coughing, while the woman whispers vehement ultimatums and pleadings for silence. The once-sleeping baby begins to cry. The castle dogs begin to bark incessantly for their supper. The stubbornly anguished boy cries so loudly, he suddenly chokes and vomits in his bed.
In stony silence, the vanquished queen cleans the mess, puts all three villagers in bed, and exits the castle, depositing her wearied body onto the steps for a moment of restoration.
But the siege has not ended.
Though white flags of surrender have been waved, the small boy appears. With desperation, he is ordered back to bed. But again, he reappears. And once more. Then the eldest appears. And the tiny one cries. Rocking and humming, on the verge of complete collapse, the woman sees a glint of silver moving her way.
Can it be? Has her savior returned? Gliding into the path comes her knight in shining armor, bearing food and wine and ending the siege being waged upon her crumbling sanity. He effortlessly ushers the small folk to bed, restores the kitchen to order, and with untapped patience, sets the castle aright.
The day is saved. The day of tribute reminds the woman that motherhood can sometimes be quite a battle, but somehow, some way, you can always kiss their small heads and wish them sweet dreams with a full heart.
My Mother’s Day ended with a tiny boy in Lego Star Wars pajamas crouching on the porch step next to me, saying “I need to talk to you for a second. I’m sorry I was mean and ruined Mother’s Day. I forgot it was Mother’s Day because it was a long day.”
“There seems to be a kind of order in the universe, in the movement of the stars and the turning of the earth and the changing of the seasons, and even in the cycle of human life.
But human life itself is almost pure chaos.”
–Katherine Anne Porter