This year, we have been sharing our Labor of Love stories with you. Some have been about products and some have been about personal experiences, but they’ve all reflected on our appreciation for the handmade, the hard-won, and the heartfelt. To honor this weekend’s holiday, we wanted to pay tribute to the biggest labor of love of all: motherhood. We hope you enjoy our stories—and feel inspired to share one of your own with us. Or, even better, share it with the special ones near to you.
While my brothers and I were growing up, my mom, like most moms, was always working. A whirl of activity from morning till night, she’d leap out of bed, make our breakfasts, pack our lunches, and get us—and herself!—off to school. For years she worked as a teacher’s assistant during the day and went to college at night to earn her teaching degree. Later, as a classroom teacher, she continued to pursue higher education and received her master’s degree as a reading specialist.
But all along, through all that work, she had a dream. She wanted to join the circus.
Her father had also loved the circus, and whenever it came to town he would do a neighborhood sweep—any and all available children were invited to climb into the bed of his pickup truck and go to the big top. My mom adored everything about those mini-vacations: the elephants, the clowns, the strong men, the trapeze artist… And that dream stuck with her.
Once she had children of her own, she would take us to the park to swing. As we flew back and forth, she would sing: She swings through the air, with the greatest of ease, she’s the daring young girl on the flying trapeze!
When Mom retired from teaching, she promised to take a year off. No working! We wanted this for her very badly. (See paragraph 1, re: always working.) She agreed. But like that daring young girl on the flying trapeze, she doesn’t like to sit still. About six months in to her mandatory year off, she informed her children she’d applied to be the Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey Circus teacher. Moreover, they’d offered her the job. Dad knew and was on board for the adventure.
Naturally, we were agog. She and my dad rented out their house, packed a suitcase or two (there wasn’t much room on the circus train car), and joined The Greatest Show on Earth. She taught the performers’ children. He sold concessions. His voice was the first you would hear upon entering: Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, children of all ages! Her voice, behind the scenes, was the one every kid needs: that of a consistent, capable teacher.
Mom and Dad traveled with the circus for almost six months. And guess what? It was hard work. Really hard work. But man oh man, did they have fun. They got to know the elephants, the clowns, the strong men. And my mom, after all these years, got to know the trapeze artist. Not the one in the circus, but the one she’d kept inside for all those years: herself. I saw it. I saw her stand with my dad on the platform called Regular Life and leap onto the swing known as Following Your Crazy Dream. With the greatest of ease, she was then, is now, and always will be our daring young mom on the flying trapeze.