Every time I open my top dresser drawer, I see it. It pokes out from underneath a red bra I hardly ever wear and a plastic baggie filled with my kids’ baby teeth. Sometimes I push these things further aside so I can see it better. It’s a simple frame, with a card inside – decorated pastel brushstrokes around a single quote:
“What is important is that my children grow up to be beautiful in the heart.”
Beneath is a line and attribution to “an African Nyinban woman.”
Now, I’m not sure who the African Nyinban woman is (or if it’s really some grizzled white-haired writer at Hallmark), but I’m thankful for the simple words, which have brought me comfort for upwards of 13 years.
I received the card from a coworker when I was pregnant with my second child. I sometimes wonder if she was struck by the simplicity of the statement too, or if it was just the first card she saw when she was rushing into the market to buy a half gallon of milk and a bag full of apples. Either way, though, I’m grateful she found it. I’m grateful she connected me with such a powerful concept.
The sentiment isn’t complex, nor does it seem particularly profound when I see it here now. But I know it struck me as profound when my children were born. (Thus the frame.)
I hung it in our “baby room,” which each child shared in succession. I positioned it right above the changing table, and I looked at it often. And I suppose my husband did, too. And so did anyone who was kind enough to help with the kids in early days (aunts, uncles, grandparents) – all would have seen it when they were trying to get the baby wipes out with one hand. But part of me also wanted my kids to see it. Or not really “see” it, I suppose – I mean, obviously they couldn’t read – but to “absorb” it somehow. I wanted them to know that this is all that was important to me. I didn’t need them to be brilliant or ingenious or gorgeous or Michael Jordan. I didn’t need them to be the first kid in their playgroup to speak in complete sentences or the first to throw a ball with any clear direction. I didn’t need them to be perfectly dressed, perfectly coiffed, perfectly clean or perfectly neat. All I asked is that they grew up to be beautiful in the heart. … A simple request, and huge at the same time.
Now the framed card lies in the top dresser drawer, underneath the red bra. It gets shuffled to the side from time to time, when I’m fishing for my travel jewelry case or need the round-neck camisole. But every time I see it, I still want to thank the African Nyinban woman (or the white-haired Hallmark writer). It reminds me of what my goal has always been, and to work toward it every day. It reminds me what my definition of success is, and what it isn’t. It reminds me to be proud of what I’ve accomplished so far, and to know that I’m doing my job. It feels attainable. …
Tell me about your favorite quote: Do you have an inspirational phrase you’ve let follow you most of your life? Where did you get it? Do you keep it pinned above your computer? On a post-it note on the fridge? What about it inspires you?