Since I was a little girl, Charlotte’s Web has been a favorite of mine. After our own little Charlotte was born last fall, I started reading the book to her. During the day, we would sit in the rocker with the pale sunlight casting a spell over the nursery and in the evenings I would turn off all the lights except the small lamp beside the rocker leaving the two of us caught in a golden globe. We would read about the farm, about the geese and the goslings, about Wilbur the little runt pig and about a beautiful spider named Charlotte. There are people who think Charlotte’s Web is a rather sad book. Matt asked me one time, “Doesn’t Charlotte die at the end?” Yes, Charlotte does die, but the book isn’t about her death. It’s about her life, about how she loved her friend Wilbur and how she loved her babies, how she used every cell of her little grey spider body to author silky messages and craft a peach-colored puff that held 514 tiny spider lives. It is the story of a woman who knows what her purpose is and knows her body is a tool to bring that purpose to fruition.
Ask a woman if there’s something about herself that she would like to change, and she will almost always say yes. A couple days ago, I dragged my kids to the drug store in their pajamas at 7 am. We were there within two minutes of them opening the doors. Why? Because I desperately needed to color my hair. My incredible mom who passed on to me many wonderful traits also gave me the genetics of early gray hair. Every time I look in the mirror, I’m convinced I’ve discovered another one, and on days when my three-year-old feels like pushing all my buttons I’m pretty sure an entire village pops up.
It seems there’s always a pound to lose, a wrinkle to erase, a dimple to smooth or something in need of a lift. We have these bodies and we have this one life. We don’t take this body with us, so why we wouldn’t we use it up while we’re here? Why wouldn’t we use every fiber of our being to give and love and create? Why wouldn’t we celebrate when our body shows the wrinkles from years of laughing? Why wouldn’t we appreciate the transformation that happens when we carry a precious life for nine months? We make healthy choices, we exercise, we moisturize and I’m definitely going to cover these grays. But I’m tired of beating myself up because things don’t look like they used to.
Like my favorite t-shirt that just gets softer and more loved with every washing, I want to use this body. I want to wake it up early to see sunrises that color the sky in cotton candy clouds. I want to keep it up late lost between plot twists of a really great book. I want these feet to travel to Africa and bring our brown-eyed child home. I want these hands to paint walls that create a haven, to bake bread that feeds a heartbroken friend and make cookies that are really just toasted dough. I want these eyes to watch two girls grow strong and brave. I want these ears to hear a million dreams, “Guess whats” and “I love yous.” And I want this mouth to speak life to those around me, to whisper “keep going” and to kiss my husband every day until death do us part.
What if I didn’t view my body as a keepsake to be guarded and maintained but as a tool to do what I was put here for? What if I appreciated the role my body plays in helping me carry out my purpose? This morning I was working out in the flower bed, pulling weeds that had crept in around my wildflowers. In the spot where a flower had once bloomed, a small spider had created her egg sac. I thought back to Charlotte’s Web where Charlotte describes her egg sac as her “magnum opus,” her great work. As parents, we will invest many, many hours and much blood, sweat and tears into our children. There will be gray hairs from the times they miss curfew. There will be forehead wrinkles from the times they were weren’t invited to the birthday party or didn’t make the team. There might be a little post-pregnancy pooch that just won’t disappear no matter how many ab crunches are done. And there will always be a heart that breaks when we see our children go through pain and heartache. These 7000 days will wear us out and leave a lasting mark on our bodies. But we accept that. Hopefully, we even celebrate that. Because we know it is worth it. They are worth it.