Mother of Pearls

Mother of Pearls

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: A Tribute to Moms

Mother of Pearls

Wisdom begins in wonder.


I was walking in the mall one day with my youngest son, Alec. He was an eight-year-old tycoon in the making. I could already see in those bright, blue eyes of his that he had an incredible reckoning for business and finance. Being a single, working mother raising two boys on one salary, I appreciated his dreams of fortune and his positive outlook for the future.

He holds a lot of dreams dear to his heart, one of which is to own a castle by the sea. I have always told him that if he can see it, he can be it. He made a list of things that he would like to have by the time he reached the century mark, and not all of them were monetary. He wants his children to go to college, to be a grandfather, and that his mother “still lives.”

He is a young man with a plan, and hopefully a lot of vitamins and oxygen if he hopes to keep me alive until he’s one hundred years of age. I admire his ambition. I love his determination. More than anything in this world, Alec wants to be a veterinarian, and what matters to him even more than material wealth is helping animals and the people who love them. As Alec and I were walking through the mall together on that seemingly ordinary afternoon, a jewelry store window caught my eye.

There against a blanket of royal blue velvet were shimmering diamonds and glimmering sapphires that would make a queen blush. There were platinum rings with rocks the size of Gibraltar clung to them and sapphires dripping from 24-karat gold necklaces. But in the middle of it all, the gem that caught my eye was a beautiful strand of lustrous pearls. It was subtle in its elegance and it was a whisper—a mere rumor—of what motherhood meant to me.

When I was married, my husband gave me diamond rings and earrings like they were candy, but they were taken away from me just as easily as they were given. Not that I have anything against them, of course, but diamonds never afforded me much happiness. The way I see it, pearls symbolize the milk of motherhood. Every mother should have a strand of genuine pearls around her neck. Just as the pearl is formed around a grain of sand, a mother is formed around the grain of her life and the children in it. She has a way about her that can smooth those rough edges in her life and make her world a better place to be.

My eyes admired the strand of beautiful pearls for a moment, and suddenly I felt a tug at my shirt. “What are you looking at, mom?” Alec asked.

I humbly pointed at the precious necklace in the window. “Isn’t it beautiful?” I asked him with a smile.

“Why don’t you buy it?” he replied plainly. It sounded good, but he could tell by the look in my eyes that it wouldn’t make its way home around my neck, not on that particular day; what was written on that price tag and what was written in the balance of my checkbook were a long way off from ever meeting in person.

“Maybe someday,” I breathed heavily. I felt his small, warm hand slip into mine and with a squeeze he said, “I have fifteen dollars to buy it for you.”

I couldn’t resist kissing the top of his golden locks. “Honey, it costs a lot of money,” I said in the whisper of my kiss.

“Well, I’m going to buy it for you when I’m a vet, Mom,” he said proudly. I looked at my little boy as he gazed up at me with those big, blue eyes.

“I would love that, almost as much as I love you,” I whispered, embracing the sentiment.

I had no doubt that Alec would one day purchase a beautiful strand of pearls for me. I knew him and his determination well enough to understand that he would never forget that day at the mall or the marvel that he witnessed in my eyes.

As we stood there holding hands, I realized that the real pearls I would receive as a mother were not to be found in a jewelry case window, pillowed by blue velvet and pricey price tags. They would be pearls of wisdom and reflection pillowed by the simple, subtle elegance of my life. I would discover them in the most unexpected corners of my son’s heart and in the warmth of his hand in mine. I would find them deep in the blue ocean of his eyes and in the sweet calm of his slumber.

I am the mother of two extraordinary boys, and there are pearls beyond a king’s ransom to be found in the midst of raising them. And anyone who is raising boys knows that with boys comes lots of sand to form such pearls in a mother’s life—some of which has mysteriously made its way between the sheets of my bed, and still no one has claimed the blame. And yet I find it an gift utter to know that having sand in my bed means I have those boys in my life. I am a wealthy woman beyond my dreams, even though I may not always have a checkbook that balances to the penny at the end of each month, nor the money to make such a delightful and frivolous purchase as the beautiful pearl necklace in that store window. But I am happy beyond my means. This I know for sure.

And through the eyes of my children I can see that I, their mother, am a pearl. I am a priceless gem that is adored and occasionally appreciated in a way that would make any queen blush. Over the years, like the pearl, my edges have become round, smooth, and beautiful. Being a single mother can often leave you feeling stranded, but if you look carefully you will find some pearls of your own along the way. Wear them proudly, because they are not only beautiful, they are priceless.

Natalie June Reilly

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