Saturday, May 24, 2014

The Happiness of Lady Chang

I know she looks like a statue to you.  But she has a story.

It begins with Maggie's hardest year in grade school. The teacher was not adept at creating community spirit, so chaos prevailed. Whenever I volunteered to help with a classroom project, Maggie ran to me as I arrived and held on for all she was worth.

Often when I picked her up at dismissal, she was exhausted, quiet, worried after her tumultuous day at the "zoo." I understood.

Sometimes retail therapy seemed like the best medicine. She rode in the shopping cart's child seat, her hand over mine, as we looked at towels and mirrors and sandbox toys.

One day at the sale table, she pointed to a pile of garden trinkets. "Oh, Mama, look at her. She's so sad," she said, pulling a scuffed white wooden Asian statue from the mix. I agreed. We talked about her perilous journey from China to North Carolina. We wondered how it felt to be beautiful but overlooked among the chintzy plastic lawn accessories. We imagined what would make her happy.

Marked for Final Clearance at $3.99, we were her last chance. We shuddered to think where she'd be sent next. We had to take her home. 

She was lovely in our yard, placed beneath a pink dogwood. Maggie called her Lady Chang. I don't know why. The tree's petals fell around her, just as that horribly challenging school year was ending. Maggie insisted she looked happy for the first time. I could see the difference, too.

When we moved to Minnesota, Maggie started middle school, not an easy thing. We brought Lady Chang with us. She's had a hard time in the front garden.

We don't have a pink dogwood tree. Squirrels and rabbits have eaten the flowers we planted beside her. She has been covered by snow for seven months every year.  Happiness has been elusive.

Maggie moved on to high school. Boys can be rude. Girls can be mean. Teachers can be thoughtless. She didn't always get the part she wanted in the play.  

In desperation, I planted a bleeding heart in the garden last summer. A heat wave took its toll, despite my watering efforts.

Sometimes all a mother can do is wait and hope through a bitter season.

But this spring has been good.

The bleeding heart bloomed.

Maggie attended the prom.

I've never seen Lady Chang look happier. 

Trust me.

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  1. Dear Karen, I loved your story and the beautiful statue looks like Guan Yin Buddha -- Goddess of Compassion :). Love, Qing

    1. I'm sure you're right, but we didn't know that back then. All we saw was a lovely lady lost in a pile of junk.

  2. Many of us have had similar experience. Your story transcends. I wish I had the sensitivity of Mother Karen.

    1. I appreciate that. All mothers, every last one of us, wait for the flower to bloom.

  3. Just poetry! Thank you so much for such a beautiful story. ..So uplifting, really needed that today...
    Magical, I see the petals of flowers dancing all around your happy Buddha....

  4. I'm always thrilled to know my post has meant something to someone. It's the point of writing. I appreciate your comment.

  5. I have learned to trust that another day will bring blossoms and happiness to my girls when life feels hard for them. Thank you for your beautiful writing Karen and sharing maggie's and your journey.

  6. Thank you for adding this. I'm delighted to know we are a band of mothers. Writing about Maggie always teaches me something valuable by the time I finish.