I wrote a really good post yesterday morning, on the slings and arrows of Mother’s Day around here, and then bam! Some gray furry thing stepped on the keyboard and that was that. I was so frustrated I decided to quit blogging forever and didn’t change my mind on that until last evening.
The point of that post was that, oh, dear, it was a great post. I just can’t rehash the whole thing. Whatever. I had been thinking about good mothers and Boppys and from there I got to wondering how Mother’s Day ends up as such a mucked up holiday over here.
I started by saying that I was just going to get my Mother’s Day post up now and be done with it so I could come by on the weekend and hear all about your Mother’s Day. The one where your beautiful and sticky bundles of joy leap upon the bed Sunday morning with homemade waffles drowning in maple syrup. The one where the doting and endlessly grateful father of those treacly tots slips a curved link of diamonds about your sylph like neck and shoos the children off to watch cartoons while you model your jewels.
And I wasn’t writing in jest, either, because I think Mother’s Day is the holiday to end all holidays and forget about Jared’s; only Tiffany’s will do. Christmas? All we had to do was fall from Grace to get presents on that holiday. Ditto Easter. Sin and get forgiveness and Cadbury eggs. But Mother’s Day? This is a day that celebrates the literal blood, sweat and tears of our labors (or c-sections, as the case might be.) Only a Commie would fail to recognize this as the mother of all holidays.
Around here, you might say Mother’s Day sucks. First of all, my mother is dead and that’s still relatively new. Plus, she was not exactly June Cleaver. Frankly, she had little aptitude for motherhood. She didn’t cook, she didn’t sit on the floor and play and she had no truck with Dr. Spock. She failed to see the charm of drool, pee and poop. Plus she believed people when they said babies don’t smile, they just have gas. Amelia Earhart or Margaret Mead were more likely matches for her aspirations. Also, she didn’t have much truck with my father either, since he was a Republican farm boy and she was a liberal Connecticut college girl. After a while they threw in the towel on family life and my mother moved us to a slum and let ME be the mother while she went back to school, wrote poetry and…joined the Communist party (briefly).
After a while, love found a way and Bud came on the scene- along with my baby sister. You have no idea how cranky my mother was to find herself pregnant past the age of 40. Back then, most women were done having babies by the time they were in their mid-twenties. But Bud, being the No Choice kind of opportunist he was, saw his one chance for a child and so sweet Laurel joined the brood. And I became a teenage mother in earnest. A clear memory from this period was my mother blowing up at me because I had signed up to take the SATs on a morning when she needed me to watch Laurel. Soon, I left home and had little contact with my family for well over a decade.
One fine May, after I had graduate degrees and a professional life under my belt, Daniel was born. He was slated to arrive towards the end of April but Mother’s Day came and went that year and I remained hot and bovine. Always resistant to change, he never would have come of his own accord; after some thirty hours of labor I went under the knife and came home with a 10 # healthy brown eyed boy and an insane case of postpartum depression. How crazy with despair was I? I called my mother for help.
She came, bearing a handmade quilt with sailboats and puppies and a little school house, all of the squares designed by her and “made with love, from Grandma” stitched on the back. As though she had been lurking in the wings for a few years, just waiting for her entrance. But still, she seemed uncomfortable when it came time to snuggle the baby or do diapers; instead, she cooked and did laundry and tidied up and left me to find my way with him. She only once suggested that he must be crying all the time because he wasn’t getting enough breast milk but she frequently suggested that my mood would improve- she knew from her own experience. One day, the cloud layer lifted a bit and I looked at my mother and we agreed it was time for her to go home.
A short decade later I was happily thriving as a busy mother of two when their father announced he didn’t really want to be married any more. I’m sure he had his reasons for wanting out, but I will never know why he chose Mother’s Day to break the news. You don’t read here tales of resentment and self-pity related to that divorce; now we both look at our lives and say, wow, if not that then we wouldn’t have this and it’s all fine. We both enjoy close and loving relationships with the children. But he certainly did put the icing on the fucked up Mother’s Day cake.
Because young children need a father to aid and assist with the celebration of Mother’s Day, we didn’t much celebrate the day during those early difficult and tiring years of single motherhood. One Mother’s Day, when Daniel was in that dark and sullen middle school phase, he gave me a tee shirt that reads, “It’s Mrs. Bitch to you.” That smart aleck attempt at humor still makes me smile every time I open the dresser drawer and see it.
From Abigail I have my other all time favorite Mother’s Day gift, a fat little handmade book of crayoned coupons that bestows the oddest gifts:
“This coupon is good for cleaning one poop out of the litter box.”
“This coupon is good for the mirdur of six slugs.”
“This coupon is good for folding two towels.”
And so forth. She’s always had a mind for numbers.
This year is one of the “special Mother’s Day years” when Daniel’s birthday falls on Sunday. He will be in Europe with his cellist sweetheart. Abigail will be winging her way to the Dark Continent, land of endless starry nights and plagues. Because they are not yet parents, they can’t really appreciate how a mother feels about her children and her role in their life, on this day of days. They are busy living life.
So there you have it, a brief history of Mother’s Day in my world.
What will I be doing, come Sunday? Maybe I’ll wander up to the zoo and see all the new babies and their mums. Spend a little time puttering in the courtyard. I’ll definitely be counting my blessings. They include a mother who left me a legacy of open and fair minded thinking, good stewardship to Mother Earth and the understanding that children can grow up and love and appreciate mothers who might not fit the usual jello mold. When we were growing up she let us have any animal we wanted as pets and before she died she saw thousands of acres of pristine Lake Superior shoreline protected and preserved, thanks to her efforts. In the end, those things count for almost everything. I miss her mightily.
I’ll consider my grandmother and feel gratitude. Gratitude that when my mother was overwhelmed by her children, she had the good sense to turn us over to the care of her mother, who nursed me through eye surgeries, hard measles, chicken pox and taught me to garden. She also told me that if you are lucky you will always have people who love you in your life but you must still learn to be okay all alone.
Then, armed with some kleenex and a glass of good bubbly I’ve been saving, I’ll consider those two nearly perfect children and give myself a pat on the back. Through my efforts and their father’s and the wonders of our peculiar DNA, I am blessed with a finely tuned and gifted musician son and a smart and sunny daughter who has every chance of becoming a current day Amelia Earhart or Margaret Mead.
Finally, I’ll think about the twists and turns and good fortune that brought me to here, to Rich and his two lovely daughters. All four of these children will definitely call, from long distances, with good wishes and love.
So, you might say Mother’s Day sucks around here, but it doesn’t really. I just have to think outside the box a bit- and go buy myself a present. And I’m NOT cooking dinner. Happy Mother’s Day, one and all!
(today’s pictures come from the Lincoln Park Zoo page; these are of the baby Takin born late this past winter. We are expecting another any moment- maybe for Mother’s Day?)
“You can’t always get what you want
But if you try sometimes well you just might find
You get what you need…”