Saturday, July 7, 2012

Chapter 15 - "Super 8"

I’m writing this from the 7th floor of the Holiday Inn near Chicago.  I’ll be speaking this week at a Family Conference, and one of the blessings of being invited to speak to ladies is the royal treatment I’m given…being chauffeured around, fruit baskets full of my favorite treats (mostly chocolates, little fruit, actually)…AND staying in five-star hotels.

This morning I was doing my prayer walk in my room, and since I have a lovely view, I paused a moment to look out my window. Even though it was only 5:00 a.m., it was daylight! Something caught my eye: right across the lane that runs beside the hotel was a sign, and for some reason it brought tears to my homesick eyes. I’ve been traveling now for over seven years, and I still get miserably homesick for my beautiful mountain valley home. But an emotion even greater than homesickness was the nostalgia, past memories. And that nostalgia prompted me to write this chapter.

And this is what the sign said: Super 8, and it was the name of the chain of hotels, or similar at least to the hotels, where my husband and our 8 children and I used to stay. As I looked down on that hotel, I asked myself, “Am I really happier spending the night in the lap of luxury than I was, sometimes when the manager would let us, staying in the room with all eight of our children? My husband and I would sleep on one bed, and sometimes we’d turn the girls cross-wise, and throw pallets on the floor for the boys. If there was a baby in the bunch, she would sleep in her travel bed.

Forget about courtesy breakfasts in those places. We felt honored to be offered stale coffee after 7:00 a.m. in the lobby.

But there was a coziness about those memories. We would travel all day, no reservations, because we didn’t know where we would be stopping. My husband didn’t go for reservations, because he said it put a restraint on the Holy Spirit. (Sorry, Honey, now that you’re not here, I’m a firm believer in reservations!)  

By the time we would find a hotel meeting my husband’s requirements (looking for a room was like shopping for a house. I often thought it would be nice if we could have been able to travel with a real estate agent.) So by the time we would stop, we were so happy to be out of the van, it looked like the 5 star hotel I used to longingly drool over as we passed them on the freeway on the way to another Super 8.

I learned something this morning as I gazed across the parking lot, at the sign on the other side of the trees: “Lord, help me never to forget where I came from. Help me to remember that I’m not a conference speaker. This is not what I do. I’m Mom and Mimi, that’s who I am. I feel more comfortable in an apron than I do in a suit, and You know that better than I do. But help this…this looking down from where I am to where I was remind me of where I am because of Your grace. The circumstances that brought me up here weren’t fun. There was a molding process that got me on the elevator across the road from where I used to be. There were hardships that taught me lessons that I share with Super 8 ladies today. Those ladies think they will always be stuck with diapers and dishes and homeschooling. Super 8 ladies are up all night, and when the night is over, they have it all to do over again.

Super 8-ers don’t think about wardrobes, and hairdos, and plane reservations. They’re happy to get their hair tied back in a pony tail before the last baby wakes up for the day or the doorbell rings. I know. I’ve been there.

Super 8 Moms look out their windows, up at my seventh story window with longing, wishing with all their hearts that they could spend one single day rushing to the airport, going through security…from one moment being treated like a queen, the next moment like a criminal. But they’d gladly change places with me while I stay with their little ones. Oh, the joy of being baby-free for a whole day, to do adult-talk, and browse in airport shops (who cares if you can’t afford anything), and have lunch at the restaurant of your choosing during your long layovers.

You’d save every bag of the peanuts, and the napkins with the airline logo on it to take back to your little ones, the only souvenirs you can afford.

You’d study the latest styles that parade in front of you while waiting to be boarded at your gate. You’d smile at the stewardess, who asks what Madam would like to drink.

And when you got to your hotel room, escorted by the lady who will be at your beck and call all week, you close the door, double lock, and climb into a bubble bath because, Hey, no babies to knock on your door, no baths to give. Just little ole you and you alone to care for.

But from up here, and believe me, Baby, I’ve come a long way…it ain’t what it looks like from down there. Get your little binoculars and take a close look at my face. I’m tired, and I’m exhausted from smiling, and greeting, and hugging, and signing, and speaking. I don’t get a good night’s rest, not at my age, at least from 12:30 a.m. to 4:00 a.m.

And in the midst of people who literally surround me with their love, and lavish attention on me, and who have sacrificed things I can’t even imagine, I sometimes feel a loneliness I didn’t feel down there where you are. I have almost physical waves of homesickness when I hear, “Mom!” I instinctively do a double-take, and tears come to my eyes when I realize I’m the wrong Mom. I’m thousands of miles away from those who call me Mom.

I remember back in the Super 8 days. I had just spent a few days with my parents and my brothers and their families. Mother gave me a beautiful white suit with lace on the collar, and a pink blouse. Super 8 moms don’t do super white suits. So I treasured that suit. The next day was Sunday, and I wore that suit to church. I imagined my self a conference lady, and I was walking in to the church where I would be speaking. Who cared that there were only 25 in attendance. This was my dream, and no one would steal it from me. Looking back over those thirty years ago, I believe that’s where my dream started, like it was a gift God had given me, a longing, a desire. It was like, “This is what I want to do. This is what I was created for.”

I would be invited to speak at small ladies’ prayer groups, or a baby shower, or a bridal shower, and I’d give it all I had. I was like transformed into another lady…that lady up there on the 7th floor. As I would leave my Super 8 room, up the elevator (figuratively speaking, of course) I was another me. Who cared that I didn’t know beans about anything back then, I pretended I had all the answers, and I spoke with authority. Who cared that I was just repeating things I’d heard from the Hyles’ preaching tapes we used to listen to so many times I had them memorized!

For two whole hours I lived on the 7th floor, speaking to Super 8 ladies, and I’d do it with gusto.

There’s a peace, a routine, a sameness in that little Super 8 room that doesn’t exist on the 7th floor. There’s simplicity, a fun-in-common-things that I enjoyed in my Super 8 room that I miss here on my 7th floor.

I love my life, and if I try real hard, I can imagine it adventuresome and exciting. But there’s a fluff up here that’s not needed down in that little Super 8 room. When it’s over, it’s over. And I’m off to another plane, another city, another country, another challenge, more lessons, and reservations.

Down in ole Super 8, it was always the same, never the fluff, then the work; the queen and then the criminal. It’s steady down there, comfortable, nobody to set deadlines for you, or to scrutinize your words, your advice, and your ideas.

You’re surrounded by people who see you before you brush your teeth, who know the real, real you, and not the you that has been dressed up and anointed with expensive perfumes. You can smile if you feel like it, but if you’re sad or discouraged, you don’t have to smile. You don’t have to act like you’ve got it altogether; your kids love you and listen to your advice, anyway. And besides, they are truly the ones who know you ain’t got altogether, kid, and you never will, even if you live to be 68 years old.

I have 8 children, 8 Super Sinners. But they’re my Super 8, and I like to think that most Super kids come out of little Super 8 rooms. Super 8 kids know things 7th story kids don’t know, because they never had to learn them.

Hey, Super 8, Mom. Put down that binocular, look around you down there. Your little brood doesn’t need a 7th story mom now. You can’t be a 7th story mom to Super 8 kids. You wouldn’t have time, and neither you nor they would be happy.

This is what I told my daughter, Sarah, a few months ago. We had spent a glorious week at a ladies’ conference together, just her, her two sisters, and me. She loves her husband and six children, but she said, “Mom, I feel like I’ve been on a honeymoon with Jesus.” And I tell you, Super 8 mom, what I told her, “Sarah, one morning you’re going to wake up and go downstairs for your coffee. You’ll look at your tidy living room, you’ll go into your kitchen where you left every dish washed last night, and there won’t be one dirty sippy cup in your sink. You’ll relax over your first cup of coffee while you read your Bible, and won’t be listening for your baby to cry for her diaper to be changed. There won’t be any sox on the stairs, or toys in the bathtub as you go in for your shower. That’s how fast it will happen.” Your 7th story day is coming, don’t worry. But there are things down where you are now that I miss.

I miss having to please just one man. I miss that wonderful man making all the decisions in my life, because his desire was God’s will for my life, not to worry!

I miss loads of laundry that marked that feel-good feeling you get from really, really having accomplished something extraordinary. I love memories of, “Mmmm, this is soooo good” from a husband who didn’t compare my fried potatoes with anyone’s Crème Brule.

Luxury to me was crawling between sheets that still smelled of Downy and sunshine from hanging in the sun, all in one glorious fragrance.

Didn’t take much for this Super 8 Mom to feel special and loved. “Mom,” I remember one of my teenage daughters saying to me many years ago, and I’ve never forgotten it because it makes me know I’m me, and can never be anyone else. “You do everything so special. Like you have a certain way you get things ready to make lemonade, you never clean your rice before you clean your kitchen. Even if you’re in the middle of making dinner, everything is organized and clean.” (Musta been a blind Super 8 kid.) No matter, I can still feel the glowy feeling, the Super Mom feeling it gave me. And that came from a little teenager.

Super 8, or 7th story Holiday Inn. I enjoy both of them still, and would certainly be an ingrate for not loving the wonderful life the Lord has given me.

He’s given you one, too.


Anna said...

From one of your 8:

I'm glad I got to live those Super 8 days with you. I'm glad I got to be one of those Little 8s who calls you Mom.

I cried the whole way through this one!!!

And you have always been a Super Mom!

I love you and I admire you more than you'll ever know.

From your Number 5.

Becky Wills said...

Thank you Mrs Sloan for sharing you thoughts with us. I also cried all the way through reading this post. But it was exactly what I have been struggling with these past few months since my beautiful little Leah joined our family. Thank you once again for blessing my heart and pointing my gaze towards the task God has given me.

Dodi Ward said...

Mrs. Billie,
What a blessing you are to so many, and feel honored that God is allowing us to be moving to serve Him by your side. I count it a privilege, and I want to glean all I can from such a wise and Godly servant as you! :) This did my heart good as I am somewhere between the Super 8 and the 7th floor...with two daughters married and one who will soon be 19. I feel the longing for the days of sippie cups and hearing "Mama" for the hundredth time that day, but I realize that it truly is "all good" with God as our guide. Thank you, for sharing your heart with us, and I hope to see you soon. We will be arriving on the 23rd...will you be home then? I sure hope so. I look forward to that "Mrs. Billie" hug!
Love you! :) Dodi

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for this post! Sometimes I catch myself thinking if I could only have it all together like other Christian moms! If I could only do better and have that 'perfect' home. Lol. I do have that! I love my boys my hubby too! Who cares if I have a basket (or two) of clothes to fold. I can't play baseball or make cookies with them forever! I love my little life! To me it's the best thing in the world! Thanks again for the reminder! I love you Mrs. Sloan you are one of my heroes in life! Praying for you! Stephanie Way Gainesville, TX.