Our mother had many children, more than I could ever hope to count. Yet how she loved each one! There was no limit to her love. "Everything I have, you can have," she told each of us at birth. "It's all free."
All my life I have had many brothers and sisters. Some I loved and some I hated, but I had to share a house with them all. Our mother never hurt us or threatened us, only showed us the consequences of our actions so we would learn. She never scolded us or called us bad children, only gave us the tools to figure out what was good. Whenever we wept, she painted us pictures so beautiful we could not resist drying our eyes to see them more clearly. My, what an artist our mother was! "Everything I have, you can have," she always wrote on the backs of her pictures. "It's all free."
Every day I grew up a little bit, and the day came that I was big enough to count and remember and to think about someone besides myself. "Mother, you've given me so much," I said as she placed a hot meal on my plate. "Everything I have, you can have," she said. "It's all free."
I grew more and there came I day when I was big enough to recognize love, and to express my thoughts more accurately than before. "Mother, you've given me so much," I said as my brothers and sisters played all throughout the big and beautiful house. "What can I give to you?" But all she said was, "Everything I have, you can have. It's all free."
As time went on we invented a lot of games, as children do. They were complicated and had arbitrary rules, as games invented by children do. We argued over them and called eachother cruel names, we divided ourselves into teams and played cruel pranks on eachother. Some of us ignored our mother, but still she painted us pictures and kept the house as clean as she could. "Everything I have, you can have," she'd always hum as she worked. "It's all free."
As we grew in number and need, our mother worked harder and harder to support us. Many of us resolved to take less and encouraged others to do the same. They were ignored or intimidated by the others until nobody opened their mouths anymore, except to let in the spoon. "They are taking too much," I said, "We are all taking too much." And our mother said, "Everything I have, you can have. It's all free."
Some of us tried to provide for eachother, but there was always so much left to learn. There were things only she could do or make, and no one could work as long and as well as our mother could. While we wrote ourselves to-do lists and constant reminders, she never forgot even one of us, not once. "Everything I have, you can have," she said as her children came to her with wishlists and ledger-books. "It's all free."
The day came when there were more children in the house than it had room for, and our mother became old and tired, but still she did her best to take care of us. I was one of few who still made a habit of spending quality time with her, and I can say for sure she never complained. "Mama, what have we done to you?" I said. "You are still so beautiful, the most beautiful girl in all the world." And she smiled at me and said, "Everything I have, you can have. It's all free."
All the while we children continued on with our games, and our mother became sick and lonely. She continued to work, and to paint us beautiful pictures, and to love us without limit. Some of my brothers and sisters stopped eating our vegetables or washing behind our ears in order to spend more time playing make-believe. Some of us became morbid and did nothing but tell stories to frighten their brothers and sisters, and some of us grew more and more wrapped up in our wishlists and to-do lists. I grew incredibly sad, and visited my mother more and more often. "Everything I have, you can have," she said as she gave me tea to calm my troubled mind. "It's all free."
One day I rose from my soft bed, which she had given us all of the supplies to make, and went to visit her, and found her decrepit and drained. "I wanted to help, Mama," I said. "I tried to get them to plan ahead, and to teach them not to be greedy. I don't know what more I could have done." She smiled at me and I could tell that all was forgiven, that she still loved us just as much as she always had. "Everything that's mine is yours," she said with her last breath, "And it's all free."
I cried into my sleeve like any child would, for that was all there was left to do. "But Mama, my beautiful Mama," I said, "I'm yours, I am all yours and nothing but yours, and now I will never be free!"