Thursday, November 7, 2013

The Gaze of a Child

The sewing box is misleading in its compact squareness. The knobs on the top, like those on a picnic basket, lift outward to reveal three, winged tiers when opened. Small compartments within are meant to serve as a boundary between buttons of various shapes and sizes, shiny pins and spools of thread. Yet the tools of sewing have spilled into each other, the colorful disarray betraying a human touch.

Claire looks in and asks for a safety pin. I wager that the combination of nascent two-year-old fine-motor skills and my close eye will remove any threat of injury. I watch her rub it between her fingers, while I unwind brown thread and ready myself to stitch the back of the teddy bear that’s come loose at the seams from rough, toddler hands.

Claire watches me too. She wants the thread I've just cut. I give it to her, and start unraveling the spool again for the real work. I stop and look up at my daughter, though, the thread wrapped around my hand now. She licks the end of her piece and pretends to thread the safety pin.

I’m surprised.

Claire's so accurately mimicking me. I hadn’t realized that she’d been studying me so closely the few times I’ve sewn on a button or hand-stitched a hem.

But then I remember.

When I was a little kid, I thought everything my mother did was magical and mysterious. Really, my mother was magical and mysterious. In her hand, anything was capable of transformation -- just like the sewing box.

My mom could kiss my skinned knee and make it better. She could take the sphere of a smooth egg, and expose a runny inside with one swift tap of the wrist on a hard surface. She could untwist her hair from a roller to display a perfectly bouncing curl.

I don't remember watching anyone the way I watched my mom, like my daughter watches me now.

Cracking an egg, sewing on a button -- a mom’s humble, everyday toil. Some people might dismiss these tasks as "women's work". Others might overlook them as commonplace, domestic duties. Still others might value individual expression and personal achievement over life's daily chores.

In the eyes of a child, simple gestures make a mama. In turn, they grow a child.

woman sewing


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Linking up with Finish The Sentence Friday, "When I was a little kid, I thought..."

27 comments:

  1. Rachel, I love that we thought so smiler on this and you are so right as a kid there was no one like my mom to me. Seriously, the sun rose and set on her and I wanted to be with her whenever I could. And I truly hope my own kids feel the same way about me now, too. Thank you for linking up with us and really loving that I wasn't the only one thinking this when this prompt came to mind :)

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  2. This is so touching, so beautiful and so true. My own daughter is still tiny, but she adores everything the she associates with me: the dishwasher, the recycling bin, by shoes, my bag. All these have precedence over any of her toys! I was telling this to a friend of mine recently and she said "You are her entire world". I'd never really stopped to think of it that way. It's so wonderful and so scary at the same time. You are a wonderful example to Claire, Rachel, of how a woman can value both domestic chores (like sewing on a button) and self expression (like writing a blog). Hope you both have a wonderful weekend :)

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  3. Gah, you are such a storyteller! Your words always have such a visceral effect on me- I feel transported. Your writing in this post mirrored the magical elements of childhood- absolutely perfect.

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  4. Beautiful post, Rachel. I remember trying to sew like my mother when I was little, and I now see my children trying to imitate me {my daughter takes her pretend phone and pretends to take pictures for her blog - gulp!}

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  5. Beautifully written. A lovely tribute to both your mom and your daughter. It reminds me of my daughter at 2. When I was breastfeeding her brother she'd grab her doll, scramble up into the chair beside me, lift up her top with her teeth (!) and slam the doll onto her chest. Swears to this day she can't remember that! I'm glad I do.
    Thanks for inciting this memory and you could not have chosen a better accompanying picture.

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  6. I feel like I'm in 1973 when I read this. I remember my mom sorting through buttons and threads, and knowing there was magic there. And there was magic there. Magic that I worry I'm not recreating for my son. I love this SO much so much so much. Your words are always amazing. Simple gestures make a mom. I try to hard to remember that when my son takes my ponytail and moves it lower and says that I'm now a girl. And then he takes it out and says that I'm a mom.

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  7. So beautiful. You've told this so eloquently. I was always close to and in awe of my mother, and grandmother, too. Moms really are magical. ;)

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  8. This is gorgeous. What a precise memory of your mom - like the Vermeer. I enjoyed reading it so very much.

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  9. That was beautiful. Beau-ti-ful!!! Love that I must have done the same thing with my mom. I think of her every time I scrape a soup can clean for a recipe, think just as she said it, "You gotta scrape the residue out." ;-) I am sure I look like her when I am doing it.

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  10. I think I may have cried. And not because I'm suffering from severe PTSD right now for a change. xoxoxo

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  11. Tears in my eyes.

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  12. So sweet and beautifully written. Recently my husband spotted Henry watching him in the bathroom getting ready for work. He took out his hair product and h smiled and rubbed hands together and rubbed them through his hair. They notice the smallest gestures and want to be just like you. What responsibility, what joy.

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  13. It was magical ... it still is some times. I love how intently Reagan will watch me when I'm doing something. The fact that they learn so quickly blows my mind.
    Hugs sweet girl ...

    ¤´¨)
    ¸.•*´
    (¸¤ Lanaya | xoxo
    http://raising-reagan.com

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  14. This is gorgeously done, Rachel. You've really captured the stillness of a child watching her mother and really LEARNING. I love it :D

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  15. A case of monkey see monkey do ... baby see Mommy do?? :)

    If only I had retained some of those things I watched my Mom do. I always say she could have given Martha Stewart a run for her money lol.

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  16. I love this, and you are so right. They watch us with such intensity it takes us by surprise!

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  17. I'm so happy I was introduced to your blog so many months ago now.
    ****In the eyes of a child, simple gestures make a mom. In turn, they grow a child.****

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  18. So beautifully expressed, Rachel! It's also surprising how we end up doing things exactly the way our mothers did, without even realising it until someone points them out.

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  19. My grandma was the one for me that I watched and learned from, and still mimic many years after she's been gone. It was magical, it still is, and your write up was beautiful.

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  20. Rachel, I miss you, too! I always love your poetic way of writing. I am working full-time again, so it's so hard to find time to blog hop as much as I want to, but I do find a couple of times a week to get some of my favorite reading in. And yours is always one of the blogs on the top of my list!

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  21. Wow, this is really beautiful writing. Loved it.

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  22. Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful. And magical. And I love you.

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  23. Rachel, you brought tears with this one. So touching and so beautiful! I remember watching my mom. Everything she did was amazing. Then, my kids watched me. And now my grandkids are doing the same. It's a little scary. But wonderful!

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  24. This is such a beautiful reminder that our children watch us and they learn from us. We are indeed their biggest role models and teachers. I think I really needed this today so thank you for this very touching post!

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  25. This is interesting. And how lovely that you can still remember watching your mother so closely.
    I had a similar experience once, when my daughter was very small. Except I realised how closely she observed me because first she did called for my husband in a way I found strange in a child, and then the next day I found myself calling in exactly the same way. I'd had no idea till then that I did it. I wrote about this in the very first blog post I ever did. (I'm never sure if it's okay to leave a link in comments, but if you'd like to read my post, it's on my inquiringparent blog and you'll find it under the "mirroring tag."

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  26. I love your writing so much. I think this post is just as much about a mother's gaze as a daughter's. Your readers can tell you really SEE your little girl. And that's beautiful.

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