The Tattoo Every Parent Needs
|Photo: Meena Kadri, Creative Commons, cc license|
|Photo: Yulya Balaeva, Creative Commons, cc license|
She’s got it tattooed right up her arm, this mom friend I know. You can see it curving up through rust-colored vines.
And I think of it this morning as I plunge hands into scalding hot dish water, and slide in the yolk-encrusted plates and swirled red and yellow congealed ketchup and mustard. Smells emanate from a mysterious bowl until a molding tomato slips into the dishwater.
I know. One busy weekend away and the dishes mount to high heaven.
The Mother’s Day herbs and flowers sit jaunty on the table still, as I deliberate which pot to plant them in, and soap bubbles rise up to cover this batch of dishes.
Because after the accolades or not, the happy Mother’s Day or not, the next day still has dirty dishes and garbage to take out. And I always have a choice. Am I doing this for them, for their thanks? If that’s the case, then any accidental non-recognition has the power to sap me of joy, or only-temporarily infuse me with it.
I think of her tattoo this morning, after a weekend where I was gone all day Saturday for work, my husband was gone all day Saturday, and my teen babysat her little brother for hours, while college-boy crammed for exams. If my audience is them, then I am controlled by oscillating emotions.
My scruffy green dishrag swipes softened egg yolk from a plate and it slides off with ease now, after time in the water. Setting it on the rinse side of my sink, I stare out the window, think of the Chicago airport, and feel around in the sink for another dirty plate.
“Where are you from?” the ball-capped guy asked me, after I shrugged my shoulders at the TSA security delay causing us all to merge lanes. We stood there, barefoot at security, our belongings in plastic bins, attempting to merge two lines of people down to one.
“Minnesota,” I smiled.
“I knew you weren’t from here,” he quipped. I had run into nothing but pleasant people in my short day in Chicago, but his inference was interesting.
Lifting my water faucet at home this morning, I trail hot water over shining dishes and set them aside to dry. I picture my friend’s tattoo, and smile.
Her tattoo? The Greek word doulos trails wispy around her delicate freckled wrist.
“I wanted a reminder of who I’m doing all this for each day,” she explained quietly, shyly. “The diapering, the dishes, cleaning, you know? It means bondservant to Jesus.”
Bondservant is the Greek word for a servant who has chosen to stay on with the family even though they could be released. Their freedom has been secured yet, out of love, they choose to stay on with their master permanently. It implies respect, loyalty, deep feeling. Standing next to a wooden door post, a special earring would be driven through the servant’s ear, publicly marking the difference.
“I wanted a daily reminder of who I am really serving each day,” she tells me, softly tracing the tattoo with her fingers.
The dishes are done, and I step over to crush some rosemary leaves between my fingers, releasing the tantalizing aroma into my kitchen. My family’s gifts are beautiful and thoughtful to me, and I love serving them. I know how prone I am to grumble on some days, though. Remind me then, will you, who I’m really serving? My desire is for that joy and kindness to mark me fragrantly.
(Linking too with Ann.)