I was making toast for my kids this morning. (In the toaster oven. Oven toast is the only way to go.). As I was putting on their plates, I remembered, as I always do, my mother's oft repeated joke about having asbestos hands.
Asbestos hands are something all mothers have. "Careful, that's hot!" you say to them as they pull a cookie sheet out of the oven or carry a casserole to the table. It's okay--they've developed mom callouses from doing that exact thing over and over. They're too busy and too confident to go rummaging for a hot pad. They can stand a few seconds of pain. You with your ordinary notions of temperature and comfort might not be able to imagine it, but all moms understand.
Asbestos hands might seem like a superpower. But it's really just the willingness to suffer a bit to get things done. In that way it is similar to that well-known motherly rule: you get the nice-looking portion, and she'll take to one that fell apart getting it out of the pan, or the one that's smaller, or misshapen, or missing half its frosting. Your plate should look good, your dinner shouldn't be delayed. Mom can take a little inconvenience.
I haven't mastered that last page of the Mom playbook, I admit. It's a good thing Noel's usually the one serving the meals. But I have the ideal, the model, in my head, never to be dislodged throughout my life. That's thanks to my mom, of course. We're all taught our parental roles by our parents. As I lift toast off the pan and transfer it to the kids' plates, enduring the momentary burn, I feel the personal satisfaction of self-sacrifice. For so many of us, that's the principle of motherhood our moms passed down to us. Whenever it serves us well, makes our homes a more welcoming place to be, or just avoids getting another utensil dirty (a principle that I learned from my dad, who takes pride in conserving silverware), they deserve the credit.