In my modest black dress, as I helped my son into his ring-bearer tuxedo, I felt like a staff member at Downton Abbey. The illusion was completed by our comfortable little "below the stairs" room. As we ascended the winding staircase to my sister's expansive suite, she greeted us in a filmy peach dress. Clearly, she was a member of the nobility.
In actuality, the difference in our rooms had nothing to do with social status and everything to do with timing. My sister and her family had booked their room at Allerton Mansion on the University of Illinois campus soon after receiving their wedding invitation, whereas I'd waited until securing the travel funds via an Indiegogo campaign I'd titled "Get the Ringbearer to Illinois." After the bride and groom had asked my son to be the ringbearer, I'd been determined to get there for this couple who were family to us. It did, however, take a couple months to raise the travel expenses.
I joked that I was dressed like the help, while my sister was a socialite, but I'd deliberately chosen a dress that could blend into the background. A mother's intuition had told me that, regardless of all our preparation, my 3-year-old Kung Fu Panda would want his mommy at his side as he went up the aisle. My goal, I told everyone, was to be like a Japanese puppet master: dressed head to toe in black to blend into the background as I guided my little guy down the aisle.
Earlier that day, as we'd roamed the grounds of the 1920s-era estate on a bright, chilly Saturday before the wedding, I'd thought of those who had once lived at this woodland retreat, both the wealthy owners and the household staff. With such a large property, and elaborate formal gardens, there must have been quite an extensive collection of cooks, parlor maids and gardeners.
As overnight wedding guests at the mansion, our status was similar to that of the original owners. Having participated in the wedding rehearsal the previous night, my son and I had been free to roam through the sculpture-strewn gardens. My son had run his two favorite wooden trains over every available surface, while I'd imagined what it must be like to have the freedom to lounge and meditate in such a place.
Too often, in my daily life, I play the role of servant. As a parlor maid, I clean, straighten and organize. As a cook, I shop for and prepare food. As a nanny, I tend to all my son's hygiene, physical and emotional needs. As a chauffeur, I drive him to preschool, story time, soccer and swim classes. As a WAHM, I squeeze articles, contract editing work and transcription jobs into my schedule. It's little wonder that I rarely find the time to roam and meditate.
Nearly every mother I've spoken to lives a similar life "below the stairs," ironically forgetting that, as the "ladies" of our households, we deserve some pampering, as well. That is the magic of weddings: the one day that many of us experience where we are treated like -- well, if not queens, at least landed gentry. Even a humble puppet-master like myself couldn't help but feel special.
Now, nearly a year later, I am finally understanding the lessons of our long journey from Philadelphia to the Midwest. It is far, far too easy to dash around like the hired help in your own life, subject at any moment to the next clanging bell. Whether it's a 15-minute yoga session or a bubble bath, we need to remember to treat ourselves like the privileged class we truly are. We need to remember, every once in a while, to let the work wait for a moment and appreciate the beauty we've helped create.
If you enjoyed this post, I'd appreciate your support in the Baby Steps video competition on preschool education by voting for me before March 28. Winning the audience prize would help pay for my son's preschool for the rest of the year. To help me out, view the video on YouTube: http://youtu.be/n49hvb9JiPI.
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