Her Greatest Achievement

Her Greatest Achievement

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: A Tribute to Moms

Her Greatest Achievement

Most human beings have an almost infinite capacity for taking things for granted.

Aldous Huxley

I’ll never forget the day I asked her the question, nor will I ever forget her answer. I had nearly finished my senior year of high school. I had chosen my college, received an academic scholarship, and was hard at work trying to decide between a career as a foreign diplomat or a famous journalist for the New York Times.

She was where she usually was at the end of each weekday, in the kitchen making dinner. She wore a colorful cotton apron over her working clothes, and she had exchanged her high heels for comfortable house slippers.

She hummed to herself as she made meatloaf and peeled potatoes. Sandy, my six-year-old sister, sat by the window, coloring her third picture of a house, complete with chimney and a smiling sun in the corner of the page.

I busied myself with setting the table. I was impatient, as I often was in those days, to get on with my life and escape the humdrum domesticity of school and home. I had great dreams of accomplishing all sorts of things once I left home.

“What makes life worthwhile for you, Mother? What do you think has been your greatest achievement?” I blurted out of the blue.

I don’t know if she heard the judgment behind the words, that her life was worth very little, that she spent her days working for a local company as a bookkeeper and her nights keeping up with the myriad tasks of a mother, wife, and homemaker. More so, my words made it sound that none of it counted for much, although I knew that even with my scholarship, her working hard every day would help to make up the difference, so I could attend the expensive school I had chosen.

She answered without hesitation. “Giving birth to you and your sister, loving and raising the two of you—that’s my greatest achievement.”

How I pitied her! I knew I would go so much further in life. I’d be a great writer or diplomat or I’d discover something of vital importance to all of humanity. If I had children at all, they certainly wouldn’t take up so much of mylife that they’d be my greatest achievement. What good would that do?

The next fall, I went to college. Eventually I went to law school, had my own law practice, and created several other interesting careers as years went by. I got married and had two children, just like her. Best of all, I discovered something of vital importance to all of humanity: that parenting requires the very best of ourselves. Being a mother taught me virtually all I needed to know about being a person of worth and character.

If someone asks me today what my greatest achievement in life has been, I’ll give the same answer she did, so many years ago. And then I’ll tell them who gave me such a wise answer.

Maril Crabtree

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