A Mended Tree Branch, a Butterfly Escapes with His Life and a Helicopter Seed Shower: A Story of a Martha Trying to be a Mary

May 8, 2021 | Blog, Essays

I am a Martha but I’m trying harder to be a Mary.  It’s so hard for me to not be a Martha.  I like being productive.  I love being productive.  But after another recent face-off with death, I decided I don’t want my children remembering me as a harried, busy, impatient mom, should anything mortal happen to me.  I want them to have memories of a mom who would stop being busy to spend time not being productive with them.  I want them to have memories of a Mary.

This last week, it was beautiful outside.  Missouri climate tends to skip spring.  It, instead, prefers to go from temperatures usually only experienced in the subarctic during the ice age directly into temperatures usually only experienced on the sun.  We might get a week of mild, spring-like weather in between the extreme hot and cold, but it’s usually hard to enjoy on account of the tornados happening that same week.  So you can imagine my delight with a week of actual spring, like how other parts of the country experience it.

My 18-month old recently discovered the outdoors.  It was at her insistence that I go out and play that day.  So I dropped the project I was working on to indulge her.  And what a day!  The sky was sapphire, the new leaves on all the trees were a vibrant peridot and the back lawn was dotted with cheerful, yellow dandelion blooms.  Like drops of citrine in a field of emerald.

Number Seven held onto my pointer finger as we made our way towards the back of the yard where the rest of the kids were playing on the swingset and digging a giant hole next to the maple tree.  She let go of my finger to go explore the hole.  

I breathed in the cool, fresh air and looked up into the tree.  There was a curious sight: a broken tree branch tied back together with a piece of old rope that had tumbled around the yard for at least a year.  The part still naturally attached to the tree had green leaves sprouting.  The part unnaturally tied on was bare.

“What is that?” I asked, pointing to it.

“Oh.  Number Two did that.  He broke it a couple of days ago and didn’t want to get in trouble so he fixed it by tying it back together,” Number Three diligently recounted to me.

I looked at the tied together branch with new delight.  I would never have seen that had I stayed inside being productive.

Number Seven found an old, plastic Easter bucket and started filling it with an odd assortment of treasures that she came across: a trowel, a toy truck, a rock, a piece of broken plastic, a dandelion and  maple seeds – what I used to call helicopter seeds when I was a child.  And then I had a brainstorm as she toddled off to her next adventure.  

“We should fill the bucket to the top with helicopter seeds and then climb up onto the roof and dump them out,” I said.  “It will be a magnificent sight!”

“Yeah!” everyone yelled.  

I sat down in the grass and worked with the kids to collect helicopter seeds.  It was time-consuming, busy work.  Just the job for a Martha at play.

While collecting, I saw my three-year old watching a butterfly in a patch of clover.  He tiptoed towards it, reaching out to try and touch it, but it fluttered away a couple of feet.  It was then that I noticed the small log in his other hand with which he hurried after the butterfly and tried to beat it!  Luckily, the butterfly had its wits about him and flew safely through the chain link fence to the patch of clover on the other side that was free of three-year-olds with butterfly bonking intentions.

While distracted by my butterfly menacer, my five-year-old sneaked from the swingset over to where we were collecting helicopter seeds, grabbed a hold of the bucket and flung it into the air.

As we were showered with helicopter seeds in the cool air against the backdrop of the sapphire sky, the Martha in me decried the loss of all my hard work but she soon joined the Mary in me to enjoy the show with my children.  I would never have seen such a magnificent sight had I stayed inside to be productive.

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  1. John Bernard Handrahan

    So glad we’ll be seeing you soon!

    • John Bernard Handrahan

      Happy Mother’s Day!

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