“Oh great!” I thought to myself. “Get a handle on your kid and off my legs.”

Sitting at my desk, I was feverishly writing the contract that could quite possibly get me over the economic slump I was currently experiencing, when I looked down at my client’s two-year-old son and his red Tootsie Pop. My clean, crisp white slacks were about to be his next the ensuing target. “Oh no you don’t,” I mumbled as I moved my chair away from his toddling body. “Don’t you dare touch me!”

For two years I’d worked with my dear friends to find the perfect home for their growing family. Each week we investigated every property from San Carlos to Los Gatos. Our journey began when Ryan was an infant. I watched him grow from a colicky, constantly crying momma’s boy to a miniature clone of Dennis the Mennis – snow white blonde hair that stood on end, deep dimples, brilliant ocean blue eyes, an angelic smile and the energy of a wild bull who’d been pent up one minute too long in the tight quarters of barn stall. Up to that day, Ryan wanted nothing to do with me. Every time I came near, he shied away, burst into tears and hid behind his mother’s back. But for some inexplicable reason this day – of all days – he decided it was okay to be my friend.

“Ryan, honey, go sit on mommy’s lap right now,” I encouraged as I swiveled my chair around and shifted the paperwork out of harm’s way. A house was finally identified as the “one” to buy. Offers were to be heard in a half hour. I had no time to fool around. I needed to get moving – and fast. Just as I began to put pen to paper, I looked down as he maneuvered his chunky, little body to my side and put his head in my lap, sucker deep within his mouth. Soon a puddle of red drool oozed on my thigh as his sticky fingers ran up and down my legs. Splotchy crimson handprints covered my entire body. This was not my typical professional real estate look when presenting a purchase offer. I was a complete mess.

Running to my appointment, looking like I’d just been in a paint ball war where red was the only color hurled, I began to laugh remembering all the marks my own children had made on me in their younger years. Clean windows were a magnet for dirty faces and germy food coated tongues pressed against the glass. Hallways were the gallery for horizontal peanut butter fingers streaking they’re way to and from their bedrooms and coffee tables became an easel for smearing food that fell off their plates while watching television. Then there were greasy, grimy smudges they placed all over me. Not a morning dawned where I lasted more than ten minutes in an immaculate and precisely coordinated fashion before the ambush by my mighty warriors .

“Jackie, I get the biggest chuckle each Sunday when I watch you with your kids,” a gentleman friend laughed one morning after mass.

“Excuse me?” I said, afraid of where this was possibly going.

“Well, you walk in looking like a fashion plate, but by the time Communion comes along, you look like you were caught in the winds of a violent tornado.  But I guess that happens when you have four kids under the age of six crawling all over your body.”

Arriving home, I immediately ran to my bathroom to look over my image. I couldn’t believe it was really that bad – but the reflection told me otherwise. Standing before me was a frightening portrayal of motherhood. My long curls that were once perfectly in place were caked with cooking crumbs and standing on end. The make-up I so diligently applied had been completely wiped off my lips from over zealous kissing. My eyes resembled that of a raccoon from small hands playing peek-a-boo and my silk dress was covered with the oily paw prints of my four cubs.

“Wow, I’m a mess,” I mumbled, but soon began to giggle for I knew I wouldn’t have it any other way. From the day they were born, I knew I was on borrowed time. My children did not belong to me – they only passed through me. One day they would leave me spotless and I’d find myself wishing I was dirty all over again.

Handprints can be found everywhere and we are constantly wanting to wipe them clean with an oversized bottle of Windex. We are a society of overly compulsive individuals on a campaign to eradicate all dirt. But it’s the handprints on our hearts that should be treasure and never expunge. Those indelible marks that last for a lifetime remind us we are or have been loved. They are the gift every parent understands who has been touched by a child.

Mother’s Day is just around the corner and for all you men and women who have ever brought a child into the world you can fully understand the workings of little hands. They push, they pull and they tug us every which way but loose. They engulf us with their passion and stay with us long after they leave the nest to fly on their own. Once upon a time, we did the same thing to our own mothers.

If you’re fortunate enough to still have your mom in your life, take the time to place another handprint on her heart. Spend time precious time with her. Share your memories along with your hugs and kisses. Just because we are all grown up doesn’t mean we stop being their baby. I was fifty-one when my mom passed away and right up to that last breath, I was forever her little girl.

If you’re mother has gone to her rest, send your handprint through the mail by way of prayer and  tender recollection. My mom’s absence in my daily life is a void that will never be refilled, but just because she no longer is physically here doesn’t mean she isn’t by my side smiling. I feel her with every step I take, every decision I make (nudging me in the right direction), and every time I choose to let love flow.

As for little Ryan, we became great friends that gooey day. No longer does he run away from me, but instead charges in my direction with his filthy hands encircling my legs until I pick him up so he can plant a “wet and juicy” one on my face. I plan to provide him with cases of Tootsie Pops so he can continue leave his mark on not just the world, but on everyone’s heart.

To all you mothers young and old – you are the keeper of the handprints. Guard them, protect them, cherish them forever. They are the reminder that you are loved.