It started with an upheaval that changed some things in our family life. When my 12-year-old niece Ree showed me her collection of her dad’s pictures on her phone, and then asked if she could text me, I said yes.
I mean, I have the right kind of phone (it was a free upgrade, what can I say?), even if I didn’t particularly like anything about texting.
How could I not respond to this precious niece, who was once a three-year-old girl calling me “Aunt” Sarah (long before I was actually her aunt)? How could I say “No, sorry, I don’t like to text,” when what she was asking was really so much more? How could I not try my hand at this newfangled technology?
Since Ree left for home, we’ve texted at least once every day. I’ve had a little insight into her life, a little glimpse into her days, a little hug sent over the airwaves with my favorite medium, words.
Then, yesterday afternoon, my mother-in-law called me from New Orleans.
“Ree just texted me,” she said, rather breathlessly. (Was she excited? Who was this woman, using that word as a verb with such familiarity?) “Is that OK? She wants to keep texting me, every night before bed.”
My first thought was that it must have frozen over down there in New Orleans. How else could my mother-in-law, one of the most technologically challenged people I know, be texting?
At 2:18 AM, when the dog woke me up, I heard the beep, and wondered if Ree had sent me a little message when she went to bed. (Too late, I thought, because I stayed up past what should have been her bedtime.)
No, as it turns out, she didn’t.
My mother-in-law did.
She was letting me know that their late night flight arrived safely and she was home.
Trudging back up to bed with the uncooperative, way too awake dog, I laughed to myself.
And, wouldn’t you know, I thought of Mary.
(If you’re rolling your eyes at me, you can just stop. Right now. I always think of Mary. It’s just part of being a Mary geek.)
I’m looking forward to the little gems I’m sure I’ll receive from my mother-in-law now, the little love notes that she’ll text me. Because she will. She’s the kind of person who makes you your tea (or coffee, depending on what you drink or, if you’re like me, when you drink it) just the way you like it, with a little hug thrown in for no extra charge. Just as I’ve been sending my sister-in-law, Ree’s mom, little encouraging notes for the last few weeks, my mother-in-law will send them to me (and to Susie too, I’m quite sure).
It’s not so different from the little hugs I feel through my day, the times I send a desperate little prayer “text” up to Mother Mary. If I was keying it, it might read:
HM, help b4 I kill kids or self ASAP! Thx. ILU
(That’s “Hail Mary, help before I kill kids or self as soon as possible! Thanks. I love you.”)
From the challenges of the upside down schedule we’ve had for the last few weeks to the juggling act I’m always imposing on myself (I like the circus), I find myself turning to Mary as a comrade-in-arms. I picture her, not as the pristine statue in our church, but as a frazzled mom of a toddler. Oh, I know she handles it all with grace and dignity (unlike me), but I also need to picture her as real, as someone I can talk to and turn to, as someone who really cares about me.
You know, like my mother-in-law.
Would Mary send me a text message to the effect of “Stay strong ILU” on a day when I really need it?
She already does. It might not be in the form of a text message (yet), but how many times does my phone ring with a friend whose sympathetic ear is just what I needed? How often do I open my inbox to find an encouraging comment or promise of prayer? How many hugs did I receive, in real life and virtually, during one of the roughest months of my life? (A lot.)
It could all just be random kindness. Or Mom could have a hand in it.
As I sit her drinking tea lovingly prepared for me by my mother-in-law, I’m inclined to think it’s the latter.
How have you felt Mary’s touch as a little message in your life recently?