Or was it a calculated move against me? I guess I'll never know.
This is how it all went down.
Blythe was laying in her crib, taking her afternoon nap, which she and I both love. She had been asleep a couple of hours...and this is where things get a little fuzzy. You see, a lot of times she wakes up and it is awhile before I know. If she doesn't start talking or kicking the wall, I often don't know. We don't have a fancy video monitor, and I can't see through walls. Usually this set up works for us. This day, it betrayed me.
I don't know how long she had been awake. Eventually she started calling for me in her typical pattern: "Mommy! Mommy! Mama! MommEEAAA! MOMMEEAA!" [This "eeeaaa/ iiiaaa" on the end of words is so bizarre, but she has been doing it for awhile now. When she gets desperate about needing something/someone, or whiney about something, or something is just irritating her in general...now she sometimes even throws other random syllables in before the iiaaa: "Daddiiaaa/ Daddy-da!" "Puppia!" "Milkiaaa!" "Paci-aaa!" "Blankiaaa!" "Nini-naaa!" or one of my favorites: "Poopiaa" and the more desperate she becomes, the word morphs into "poopy-piaaa!"]
Where was I? Oh yeah... "Mommeeeaaa!!"
I walked in the room, casually, like I do every day. And like every day she was standing at the front edge of her crib, gripping her blankie. Though instead of the smile she usually greets me with, she had a wide-eyed despairing look. I thought maybe she had pooped [poopia]. And that's when I saw it: the picture frame behind her.
For her first birthday I had worked on that picture frame for hours. I found 10-20 favorite pictures [or more] for each month of her first year of life. I cut them and I arranged them piece by piece. I used spray glue at first, to adhere them to the frame [it was an old painting]. Then, when I had every area covered, and every picture in place, I put two or three coats of modge podge over the top to seal them down.
This was the picture frame that hung right above her crib. I had noticed a spot or two where a few bubbles had appeared over time, but never thought much of it. Apparently Blythe, in her boredom or naughtiness, did not. Her little fingers found their way under a few pictures. And I guess the ripping sound was too enticing. You see, I had printed the pictures on paper-- not only was this cheaper, but I knew it would be easier to glue and work with the paper, rather than actual photos. However, paper rips into shreds, and if it has been glued, some of the paper will remain.
So there she was, staring at me with those big brown eyes. And there was the picture I had laboriously worked on, torn up, the pieces laying in the crib at her feet.
And I stood there for a moment, frozen, vacillating between grief and anger and love: grief for the work of my hands now destroyed, anger at Blythe for what she had done, but also, somehow, love that was colored by the grace I wanted to extend to her even in the midst of my other emotions.
I said, "Blythe, should you have torn those pictures down?" By the way, an almost two year old probably cannot understand that question, but I plunged ahead. Still holding her blankie up, like she was protecting her face, she nodded yes very dramatically to match my intonation. I said, "No, Blythe. We don't tear up pictures. That makes me sad." And then it was like...oh, sad...okay...and she started shaking her head no. I took a deep breath. The deed had already been done. I think she understood, by the look in her eyes, that it probably wasn't the best decision she had made that day. She helped me pick up the pieces. And I did my best to drop it. It was over.
Whew. That was hard for me. I wanted to cry. I wanted to scream. Holding the shreds of paper in my hands was unbelievably disheartening. But we moved on. We played store. We "cooked" some supper [watermelon, butter, and eggs...yum!].And by the time Brent got home I didn't feel like crying or screaming. As much.
A few nights later I got the picture back out. I took the stack of scraps and scattered them around it. I got a glue stick. I was determined. Brent looked on from the other room and assumed I was crazy.
It was like a giant puzzle. If I got a part of a face matched up with an edge or another piece, I was exhilarated because I knew I could match up the other half of the face. [Of course, one picture was shredded up pretty maliciously, in about five places...right across my face.This is when I decided it was, indeed, a hate crime.]
When I started the work, I was still a little angry and sad about it all, but something happened as I glued and pieced, glued and pieced, glued and pieced. I thought of my niece Caroline, in the midst of potty training. After yet another accident, she saw the look in her mama's eyes and simply said, "Mama, are you gonna give me grace?" At the time I laughed, and I still think it's funny, but it spoke volumes to me then [read here]. And as I worked on my destroyed collage, the story of grace overwhelmed me again.
I am the toddler. My fingers are the ones to rip and shred: out of boredom some days, other days out of malice. I am the one, to look wide-eyed at my Savior, who has worked so hard on me-- who has pieced me together with a huge vision of the finished project-- and wonder if He will hate me this time, if this is the time I will receive the punishment I deserve. And I realized that in those moments, God probably feels the same things I felt: grief, anger, and love. And thankfully he chooses grace. He chooses mercy.
And after finishing the collage...again...I stood back and looked at the rips that were still partially visible; at the creases in the faces that weren't there before. And I saw how beautiful it was. It is now a picture that reminds me of grace-- of this great big piece of God that I will never perfect, but can aim at everyday.