Last winter, a bunch of our family members got together in Raleigh, North Carolina, where my mother-in-law, Milly, lives. Our last night in town, we made a reservation at Mo’s Diner – a charming restaurant in a small house oozing with vintage charm. The food was remarkable. The company – stellar. But what I remember most about the experience actually had nothing to do with either of those things. My memory of the evening is oddly shaped by a trip to the ladies room – because that’s where I found the treasure. In the way-back corner, in an antique frame with too-small font in too-dim lighting were the simple words that magically caught my eye: “What is a Girl?”
Originally copyrighted in 1950 by New England Mutual Life Insurance Co. in Boston, I’d read only the first couple of paragraphs and already knew these were words worth sharing. Words many of us could connect with in our own special way. Words that could invite smiles, warm hearts, inspire dreams. In a surprising and unexpected way, these words made me proud and happy to be a girl. (Thank you, ladies room curator!)
So I snapped a photo (above) and took the liberty of editing some of the language – to keep the original 1950s tone, but modernize the message. I’m sure I could do more, but below is what I’ll call “What is a Girl? v.1.1”. I hope it tickles your heart like it did mine.
Little girls are the nicest things that happen to people. They are born with a little bit of angel-shine about them and though it wears thin sometimes, there is always enough left to lasso your heart – even when they are sitting in the mud, crying temperamental tears, or parading up the street in mother’s best clothes.
A little girl can be sweeter (and badder) oftener than anyone else in the world. She can jitter around, and stomp, and make funny noises that frazzle your nerves, yet just when you open your mouth, she stands there demure with that special look in her eyes. A girl is Innocence playing in the mud, Beauty standing on its head, and Motherhood dragging a doll by the foot.
Girls are available in all colors – black, white, red, yellow, brown, and everything in between – yet Mother Nature always manages to select your favorite color when you place your order. They disprove the law of supply and demand – there are millions of little girls but each is as precious as rubies.
God borrows from many creatures to make a little girl. He uses the song of a bird, the squeal of a pig, the stubbornness of a mule, the antics of a monkey, the spryness of a grasshopper, the curiosity of a cat, the speed of a gazelle, the slyness of a fox, the softness of a kitten, and to top it all off, he adds the mysterious mind of a woman.
She is loudest when you are thinking, the prettiest when she has provoked you, the busiest at bed time, the quietest when you want to show her off, and the most flirtatious when she absolutely must not get the best of you again.
Who else can cause you more grief, joy, irritation, satisfaction, embarrassment and genuine delight than this combination of Eve, Salome, and Florence Nightingale? She can muss up your home, your hair, and your dignity – spend your money, your time, and your temper – then just when your patience is ready to crack, her sunshine peeks through and you’ve lost again.
Yes, she is a nerve-wracking nuisance, just a noisy bundle of mischief. But when your dreams tumble down and the world is a mess – when it seems you are pretty much of a fool after all – she can make you a king or a queen when she climbs on your knee and whispers, “I love you best of all!”
And I know this probably should have occurred to me earlier, but as someone who isn’t a mother myself, I kind of forgot that my mom was a daughter before she was my mom. That she was one of the nicest things to happen to my grandparents – lassoing their hearts, wracking their nerves and making them feel like the luckiest people in the world. But I guess that’s what great moms do – they make you feel like the world didn’t exist before you came along. They take all the hurt and loss and learning from their own lives and weave it into a blanket of experience that they hope will keep their babies safe.
And so, this Mother’s Day, if you’re lucky enough to have your mom, or someone like a mom around to thank and celebrate – hug her like a little girl, kiss her on the forehead, and treat her like she’s precious as rubies – because she deserves to feel like the most important person in the world.
And if your mom isn’t here for you to hug, find someone else who looks like they could use some extra love today. And if that person is you? Be extra kind to yourself. That little girl inside will thank you.