From Chicken Soup for the Working Mom's Soul

Storm Day

It was 5:30 AM, and the annoying beep of the alarm clock woke me abruptly. There wasn’t a minute to spare in the mornings; I had to report for work by 6:45 AM. The house was cold, and when I peeked through the window, what I saw made me want to scream! A heavy snow had fallen overnight, my husband was away, and my two student offspring were still sleeping. I turned on the radio just in time to hear the announcement of school closures. Yes, it was a “storm day,” and the mere words turned me into a mass of anticipatory stress. What would these two partners in crime do, or undo, today?

My son was in twelfth grade, tall and strong, his sister in ninth grade, shorter but an equal accomplice with her brother in his many pranks and practical jokes. It was ten days before Christmas and, as any working mom knows, a time of enormous stress, too many demands, and constant fatigue. I had all the symptoms of the overworked, distressed working mom and more! “Storm days” were days when I wished the earth would swallow me whole! I well recalled the last free day these two had at home together. I came home to find my son with red marks all over his face and my daughter looking like she had swallowed the goldfish.

“What happened to you?” I asked my lanky son.

“She gave me the German claw when we were wrestling!” he reluctantly admitted.

So before leaving for work on that snowy morning, I told them about the storm day. Maybe they would sleep all day, or at least longer than usual. A mother can dream.

As my workday progressed, I received only two phone calls from home, so the situation there seemed under control in spite of my fears. Surely they would not repaint the house or scorch their feet on the burner of the stove, which had happened the day my son had tried to walk completely around the house without touching the floor! He was quite proud of that accomplishment!

Pushing those thoughts aside, I worked until 4:00 PM, then I left to start my never-ending list of errands. I finally arrived home, filled with dread, knowing that in eleven hours my two delinquents could have turned the world upside down, wounded each other, or reorganized the whole house. There was nothing they would not try or do! That was “a given,” as the saying goes!

I was exhausted and a tad ill-tempered by the time I arrived home. The outside Christmas lights were on, and I entered our house to find the kitchen in a state of cleanliness and filled with the aroma of baked chicken. The reflections of the lights through the large window, combined with an immaculate house, the smell of supper cooking, and two young people with bigger smiles than I thought imaginable warmed my heart. They were so proud of their achievements.

“Well, since supper is underway, we’ll have time to get the tree up tonight,” I sputtered, still in a state of mild shock.

“Yeah, we’ll help, Mom,” they both answered. “Dad called, too.”

He had told them when he would be home, and they suggested that we should put up the tree in the recreation room so he would be surprised. Something was starting to make my skin itch, and I began to feel mild dizziness. Is this really happening to me? I wondered.

After the meal, they offered to do the dishes. This is surrealistic! I began watching the news, but the two cherubic beings stood in front of me and asked, “Aren’t we going to do the tree?” Oh, yes, the tree.

The three of us headed to the family room where we always placed our tree. The smell of a fir tree met me as I opened the door. I turned on the light switch and suddenly the corner of the room lit up the most beautifully decorated Christmas tree! Gifts were underneath, and it looked simply glorious. Then the music of Phil Coulter’s Christmas began to play. All I could do was stare. My eyes filled with tears, and I started to cry. It was the most amazing Christmas moment I had experienced in years.

I looked into the faces of the two young people who had been responsible for this gift, a gift I knew I would forever remember. Then I realized they were gifts to me, gifts I sometimes took for granted.

My love for them and my lifted spirits gave me a release from the fatigue I had been experiencing. The blush on their cheeks, combined with their looks of pride and achievement, was a moment engraved on my heart. I will never forget it, nor will they ever know how great a gift they had given me. How could I have underestimated them to such a degree?

In their thirties now, I mention it every Christmas. I hear the same thing every year. “Aw, Mom!” they say. “Everyone has heard that before!” I still think they are delightfully overjoyed at what they did for their mom that Christmas.

Whether I am with them or they are far away, I can see their bright eyes, feel my son’s strong arms around my shoulders and my arms around my daughter’s waist, hear the music, and see the most stunning Christmas tree glowing and decorated beautifully. They gave me the best Christmas gift of all. They gave of themselves and showed they understood and knew how their mom was feeling on that long-ago storm day.

Bonnie Jarvis-Lowe

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