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The Mother Lion

April 15, 2012

This Mother’s Day, I’m working with Clever Girls in support of Macy’s Heart of Haiti to shine a light on the “trade, not aid” program, which provides sustainable income to Haitian artisans struggling to rebuild their lives and support their families after the 2010 earthquake.

As a child, unless you have a terrible mother (and I’m sorry for those of you who did), you usually have an idea that your mother loves you.

There was no way to understand the depth of my mother’s love, though, when I was little. I mean, I knew she loved me, in that she liked me more than anyone else on earth liked me.

I also knew she put up with my oddities, my sensitivity to loud noises and smells and buzzing fluorescent lights, my many irrational fears (I knew I’d fall through the cracks in the pier, and I once freaked out at an art exhibition, afraid the kinetic sculptures were some kind of strange weapons designed to chop up children), and my need to come home “sick” from school a few times a month.

But my mom also bugged me a lot of the time. Drove me crazy. She was annoying. She was demanding. I wanted to do what I wanted to do and I didn’t understand the problem with that. There were days when I would have sworn that all my parents were put on earth to do was to keep me from having fun.

In hindsight, it’s easy to see that my mom was bothering me because she was trying her best to raise me into a good human. As a child, I didn’t appreciate that. I thought she just liked tormenting me about doing dishes and washing my face and going to bed at a reasonable hour.

When I was a junior in high school, I got very suddenly sick with a dangerously high fever. It began as muscle pain and had progressed to me almost fainting in pain at the chiropractor’s office, after which the decision was made to take me to the local hospital.

When we first got to the hospital, I was sent for blood tests. My pain ranked about 10 on Hyperbole and a Half’s pain scale, defined as “I am actively being mauled by a bear.”

We waited in the Phlebotomy area while the technician helped the people in line in front of us. There was no question of us asking to go ahead of other people in line, not even with bear-mauling levels of pain.

We simply are not Those Kind of People. Being pushy is not in my genetic structure (I had to learn it and it still takes all my guts when I have to assert myself to get what I want).

Finally, after a Dinosaur Age or two, it was my turn. The tech told my mom “I’m going on my break. I’ll be back in a while.”

Suddenly my mom, my mild-mannered, patient, polyester-pants-wearing suburban lady-looking mom, turned from herself into the Incredible Hulk, minus the shirt ripping.

She went full “Terms of Endearment” on them, five full years before Shirley MacLaine flipped out in that movie. Watch:

Yep, that was my mom, who began screaming “You will NOT go on your break! You WILL take my daughter’s blood RIGHT NOW.”

I had never seen such a thing! It left quite an impression on me, and on the poor cigarette-craving phlebotomist, too, because he suddenly shrank to half his size and prepared to take my blood.

It has become an Amusing Family Anecdote, of course, “The Time Mom Came Unglued.” But as a daughter, I can see what it took to push my mom into a place she would never, ever go for herself. She would never ask someone to sacrifice their smoke break just because HER arm had been gnawed off by hyenas. She would generally rather bleed to death than to make a fuss on her own behalf.

That’s the thing about a mother’s love, isn’t it? A mother’s love can turn an ordinary woman into the Incredible Hulk, into a raging lioness. It is a scary and beautiful thing, a power like nothing else on earth.

So I got my blood test. I got healed up (after spending 6 weeks in the hospital with a staph infection in my spine). And I got to see, once and for all, just how much my mom loved me.

Mom and Sam Tolan
Mom and my nephew

Mom chopping veg 1977
And in a calmer moment, the same year this story happened.

What is Macy’s Heart of Haiti? Heart of Haiti is a “Trade, Not Aid” initiative launched by artist and social entrepreneur, Willa Shalit, The Clinton Bush Haiti Fund and Macy’s. Already, Heart of Haiti has led to employment of 750 artists in Haiti, providing financial benefits for an estimated 8,500 people in the country.

Each item is a one-of-a-kind design and handmade by a Haitian master artisan from raw materials such as recycled oil drums, wrought iron, papier-mâché and stone. The collection features more than 40 home decor items including quilts, metalwork, ceramics, jewelry and paintings and is made almost entirely from recycled and sustainable items such as old cement bags, cardboard, oil drums and local gommier wood.

Heart of Haiti products are available online at Macy’

Thank you to Macy’s Heart of Haiti for sponsoring my participation in this “Share Your Heart” promotion. I was selected for this sponsorship by the Clever Girls Collective. All opinions expressed here are my own.

  1. April 16, 2012 11:31

    What a great story. And you’re right, that’s exactly the kind of moment when we know how much our mothers love us. Even all these years later, thinking about my similar experiences make me feel warm inside.

  2. April 17, 2012 14:02

    Hi! I love this story. You are really such a talented story teller. 🙂 I work with Heart of Haiti and we appreciate you giving us support. I’m sure mother’s in Haiti have to find their inner lioness quite a bit for their young ones. And geez a staph infection in the spine!?! What an ordeal for a kid to go through. Anyway, thanks again for sharing!

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