“Happy Mother’s Day, Mom!”
Somewhere between childhood and motherhood, Mother’s Day surpassed even the holiest of holy days. Cashiers at Kohl’s wish random women a Happy Mother’s Day a week in advance. Billboard ads for 1-800-Flowers proclaim the virtues of every mother ever made. Gyms and spas and nail salons hang banners reminding you just what your mother wants most. And even the Mets, despite their ever-escalating aches and pains, appear between innings, extolling the virtues of the mothers who made them.
When I was growing up, my mother was lucky if one of her four daughters even thought to buy her a card. And my father certainly didn’t buy her a present. I can still hear him saying, “She’s not MY mother.”
My dear mother, as I’ve said many times before was, and still is, at 91.5 years-old, a perfect mother. One whom I wish I could emulate, but instead, long ago forgave for not passing on that particular gene. My mother didn’t need recognition, reward or respite.
Unlike her Number Three daughter.
When my three kids were young and needy, my Mother’s Day wish was to escape. And so, I’d go to the movies on Mother’s Day. Alone. Where I didn’t have to tie any shoelaces, clean up any messes or referee any fights. Where I could spend an afternoon in the dark with Meg Ryan falling in love in You’ve Got Mail, me falling in love with Kate Hudson in Almost Famous or Renee Zellweger feeling complete with Jerry Maguire. Then I’d head home for a spouse-supplied supper, warm and waiting, on the kitchen table. My mother never had that luxury. She just kept tying, cleaning, refereeing and cooking. Day after day.
Every year for Mother’s Day, my spouse fills my garden with blooming flowers, buys me some objet d’art that I may or may not have left a picture of on the kitchen counter, takes me somewhere springy like the Great Falls of Paterson and surprises me with something magnanimous like a dishwasher after vowing never to replace the one that had died.
I smile at my good fortune, still hearing that old familiar voice, “She’s not MY mother.”
My kids, on the other hand, are deeply immersed in their own lives, just as I was at their age. They’d never forget me, but there’s rarely a year when all three bestow gifts upon me. Instead, I’ll get something age appropriate from the 21 year-old, and from the other two a heartfelt Facebook post, lovely card or a phone call in which they consciously refrain from sharing their recent trials and tribulations.
And I don’t need anything more than that. Like my mother before me, I know that my kids love me and that no gift they could ever purchase will elevate their status in my heart. After all, it’s part of the job description. As mothers, we just can’t help but love those little suckers, even when they suck the life out of us.
Today, while praying for my sorry soul, I felt my phone blowing up beside me. But, being the good Christian I am, didn’t sneak a peek at my messages until church was over and I was back inside my car.
There was a message from my friend Madge telling me, as she is wont to do, what a great mother I am. There was a convoluted group text from my friends Karen and Theresa wishing every mother they ever knew, including some whose identities were unbeknownst to me, a Happy Mother’s Day. Another string of texts included Claire, Jean, Jenn and Tracy, reminding me of how very important we were in each other’s lives during those long and laborious Little League days. There was a Facebook post to me and 98 other mothers whom Angelae Wilkerson chose to celebrate. Then, in rapid succession, the messages from Angela Hargraves and Katrina Williams and Heather Wimbush, the mothers whose collective hearts bled together on the bleachers, as we hoped and prayed and dreamed our way through agonies and injuries. And when my Mahjong mamas, Susan and Janice weighed in, it warmed the cockles of my tiles.
I smiled with each and every message but knew the best were yet to come.
And they came. The messages from the kids. Not my kids. But the kids whose lives I touched. The kids who didn’t have to wish me anything. Who, after all these years still remember the nights when I pretended not to know what was going on in the basement. The days I listened to them as they shared their secrets, voiced their fears and formulated their dreams across the kitchen table. The kids who rode in my car, slept in my house, asked for my help and ate my pasta. The kids who followed my advice, refused my advice, did the right thing, did the wrong thing and did nothing. And still turned out perfect.
And as I read those messages from Heather and Tanya, Oksana and Taylor, Chris and Taryn, Kris and Koree and lovely Liza, I finally get why Mother’s Day has become the holiest of holy days. As the world gets crazier and crazier, as life gets more and more difficult, as kids get more and more confused, no one can soothe a soul quite like a mother. And sometimes the souls you soothe don’t share your DNA but simply share a small and fleeting time in your life.
But, their hearts. Their hearts you have forever.