Today is Haitian Mother’s Day. That means I’ve tasted an American celebration of Mother’s Day on May 13 and then today had the privilegeof experiencing a Haitian version of the holiday.
I’m told the Haitians have only recently started celebrating Mother’s day. I was curious to see what it would entail. I knew it wouldn’t bethe kind of day brimming with Hallmark greetings, See’s candies and spa gift cards that I’m used to in the U.S. I knew not many of the Haitian kids would bepreparing breakfast in bed for their mamas. I did know the children in thechurch were preparing a special program.
We tiptoed into church just as the kids were promenading upthe center aisle. They were sway-marching and waving silk flowers as they sanga kind of anthem to the mothers. They smiled joy-full.
The whole service was dedicated to the mothers. The children’schoir (and their mother-leaders) had prepared some 15 songs with poems recited intermittentlyby the children. Our young Pastor Emmano had all the grandmas and pastors’wives stand and passed out little wrapped gifts to each of them. All of usmamas were then asked to stand and the kids sang their little hearts out straightto us.
They named the mothers in the congregation. They called outto them their gratitude.
I found myself blinking back the tears after about 8 songswere delivered. But it wasn’t the kindof watery eyes that came at my daughter’s kindergarten Tea Party. It wasn’t the kind of joy-tears I cry when I think about my kids sharing toys and clotheswith their friends here in Haiti. It wasn’t even the sentimental emotion risingup in me as I think about my oldest turning 6 years old tomorrow.
My contacts blurred this morning when I had this realization:most of the kids singing up there on the stage are orphans.
The girls and boys who were featured in the solos andreciting the poems were predominantly the kids from the orphanage. Others werekids – poverty orphans - from the streets dressed in “Sunday best.” They donnedthe lace socks, the braids tied in ribbon. Some wore Easter-fancy dresses. Ispotted one little girl wearing the top to a Disney Princess dress-up outfit–maybe Cinderella? Some had snotty noses and ashy knees but they were stillsinging their hearts out.
They honored the mothers even though some have never known their birth mother. Some of them were raised by teen mothers or faithfulgrandmas or aunties. Women struggling to get by. Women rising above their circumstances, their lack of resources. Mama is a term used for women in thisvillage who have collectively raised them.
Maybe that’s just the way it should be.
My eyes rested on Serline, a girl who I first interviewed tobe part of our orphanage in Pignon before it opened. I had the privilege of meeting her grandma who was raising seven grandkids after her daughter had diedand son-in-law fled to the Dominican. Grandma had begged us to take Serline andfeed her and raise her in a safe and Godly home. She entered the orphanage anda month later her grandmother-turned-mother-again died. Her father is dead now too.
I couldn’t help wondering what she was really thinking aboutas she sang and said the poems with the other kids. When I look at her, I wonder where the childlike light has gone. Her eyes are flat. They hold that haunting mother-wound.
My mama heart aches. I hug my three girls tight when thechildren’s voices lilt, “Mama Cheri” (Sweet Mama), they sing. My heart tears wide open.
I find myself whispering a word of thanks to my Father.Thank you, God, for letting me mother these three – Meilani, Giada and Zayla. Thankyou for lending them to me for this short time. Thank you for covering us allwith your grace when I fall short as a mother, when I mother selfishly, when Imother imperfectly. Thank you for my mama back in California blessing me withher prayers tonight. Thank you for the many women who have mothered me on thisjourney.
I look out into the church crowd and see so many model mothers.I see Madame Degloir, a mother and grandmother now. She inspires me. Last yearshe had her leg amputated after a bad infection. She could barely walk. This year,she is back at our mission house working away. She leads the women around herwith love. She offers a strong grace-hug to her own children and grandchildren. The joy of the Lord is her strength. She mentors me. Her daughter Nella leadsthe children’s choir today. Her granddaughter Charissa dances in Daddy’s arms. Three generations of love heralding here in this place.
I see Moseline, mother of three biological girls and nowmama to 15 orphans in The Bridge Christian Children’s Home. She is the onlymama kids like Serline and James will remember one day. She patiently trains them. She prepares them to live in this culture.
The task of a mother is never easy. It’s never straightforward. This I know: it is a gift.
I pray for more mamas to come and love these children. Ipray for tangible ways I can show them mother-love this summer.