I need to begin with a bit of background. It will be brief to condense what could easily become a rather long, emotional rabbit trail, but it will help to set the scene. The year Shay entered Grade One and Koby started Kindergarten was a tough one. We had moved three times in under a year, had just sold the business we started three years earlier, and were recovering from having had four kids in under five years. It would be an understatement to say that though most of these events were very rewarding, they had also left me drained both physically and emotionally.
To be honest, I was frazzled. (To those of you who have become friends in recent years, how scared are you that the lady you know is the improved version?!)
My body image was in shatters. While in the past I had often consoled myself by thinking that at least I was reasonably smart so that might cover deficiencies in appearance, it was becoming apparent that while I was growing in some areas, I was shrinking in others, and I probably didn’t have smart going for me anymore either.
We were new to the school, and though I valiantly tried to look like I had it all together, stuff often bulged through the cracks in my façade. One particularly bright light that year was Shay’s first grade teacher. She was fabulous; a gifted teacher with a warm, relational personality.
So when she organized a beautiful Mother’s Day Tea, I couldn’t wait to attend to support both her and my darling firstborn. I smiled as I read my home-made invitation. It recommended that younger children be left at home if possible so mothers and grandmothers attending could be pampered. Lovely thought, but not possible. I was going with my entourage.
Excited for the afternoon, I showed up trying to look my best. The classroom was lovely, all decorated in soft pinks and whites and the Grade One students were on their best behaviour. We were seated like guests of honour, and served dainty treats and lemonade by our children before being entertained by a lovely performance.
I did try to keep the experience pretty, clean, and dainty, but it didn’t take long for a sweat to break out as I worked to keep the chubby fingers of my younger children out of the juice and sweets. I felt the humidity work my hair into a frizz, as I preformed hand calisthenics in an effort to keep them quiet during the performances.
Honestly, by the time the afternoon wound to a close, I was relieved. There was only one more event to get through, and it was the much anticipated highpoint of the Tea. A portrait unveiling.
Shay had promised me ahead of time that this would be my favourite part. Each of the children had created a portrait of their mother and proudly hung them on the display board. The pictures bore no labels. The teacher would pull off the cloth covering them and Mothers were to guess which one was of us.
The moment the teacher pulled off the cloth to reveal the masterpieces, Shay grabbed my hand excitedly and began dragging me towards the display. In eager anticipation, he kept glancing at my face as I surveyed the artwork, not wanting to miss the moment I discovered myself.
Shay is very observant, so I knew he would have included my curly hair and green eyes. I assumed that finding myself would be relatively easy. There were not many curly haired, green eyed Moms on the board.
However, knowing how much this meant to him, I decided to prolong the game for his benefit. I oohed and aahed over the pictures, picking ones that were sort of close but missing a distinguishing feature, only to have Shay laugh at my silly guesses. He shook his head with supressed delight; I still hadn’t discovered his masterpiece.
As I made my way across the display, I came upon an especially interesting portrait. The woman depicted had wide bloodshot eyes, and looked like she may have been electrocuted. Shay was lucky enough to be part of a very multi-cultural classroom, and based on the skin colour, I saw that it could not be me. I walked past hoping the mother depicted in this picture would be able to graciously accept that the portrait was the work of a five year old, and not be too offended.
Knowing it was almost time for me to pick Koby up from afternoon Kindergarten, I began to narrow down my guesses. I focused on all the defining characteristics, and saw that there were two pictures to choose from. It was about this time, I became aware that Shay’s teacher had been hovering around me for much of the activity. She would keep smiling reassuringly at me, as though concerned. At first I thought she was just nervous about my entourage wrecking her lovely classroom, but I soon saw the compassion in her eyes. Curious. Why would that be?
Time was short. I had eliminated the viable prospects, and was starting to worry. There was only one picture of a green-eyed woman left. And those green eyes were pretty bloodshot.
I made my way to the piece, and saw Shay’s eyes light up with pride. Swallowing mine, I asked him in mock excitement, “Shay, could this be me?!”
He threw his arms around me in a giant hug and nodded happily. Excitedly he chattered about how he had been experimenting with flesh tones not content to leave my skin uncoloured as some other less diligent children had done. He announced that he had even taken the time to draw in the red veins that people have in their eyes. I murmured my approval as I choked back the tears. All the while, his teacher patted my shoulder reassuringly. (She later told me that when she had first seen the drawing she had worried I might take it the wrong way. I wasn’t sure how many ways one could take this picture!)
I hugged my little boy tight as he announced that I was the prettiest mom there. He loved me with abandon. Crazy hair, bloodshot eyes; it didn’t seem to matter.
Perhaps beauty is not only in the eye of the beholder, but is best seen through the eyes of the Creator. In His eyes, arbitrary standards fall away. Instead we see through the eyes of the One who calls us chosen. Dearly loved. Child.
1 Peter 2:9-10