I’m not able to spend Mother’s Day with my mother–she lives halfway across the continent from me.
I’m not going to spend it with my daughter either, although she lives closer.
That doesn’t mean that they aren’t both on my mind. I love them both, more than there are words to even express.
I’m a bit blue though too, as I think about long ago Mother’s Days.
I remember my Grandma W telling me all about what the flower corsages meant. You wore one color if your mother was alive, another if she was dead. I don’t remember what color meant what now though. She was big on traditions like that. Mother’s Day meant that soon it would be Decoration Day, which most of the country calls Memorial Day. That meant it was time to start making the rounds of the cemeteries, putting flowers on graves. It was a time when she would tell me stories about people who were long dead, stuff like how they died, or things that they had done when they were alive. Sometimes, she would mention things about some extraordinary act of kindness they had done during their lives.
Most of those extraordinary things weren’t about spending money, or not much anyhow. It was about simply being kind when they didn’t have to. They lived on, through that act of kindness.
Funny how that works.
Then, my mind drifts forwards to my own adulthood. I remember one year, my son was very small, he’d just turned two that spring. My daughter was older, she’d be turning ten in a few months. I was a single mom, and money was usually pretty tight. I’d bought my own Mother’s Day gift that year, in the form of a cheap wheelbarrow. I needed one. My mom and I put it together with an adjustable wrench and a pair of pliers on the front patio. We had then left the tools lying, and gone on to other things.
That next morning, the kids were outside playing, including my son. I don’t remember what I was doing, so it probably wasn’t something important. The next thing I knew though, my son had taken the tools and disassembled his wagon, a small metal red one. We never did get it back together. I was still impressed though. He had learned how to use the tools from watching us the day before, and had put his new information to work figuring out how to take the wagon apart. Not bad for a toddler, actually.
He died in 2000. I still miss him. He was my fishing and hiking buddy. I still cry sometimes, and the grief will wash over me as fresh and raw as it was on that awful unbelievable day. How was it that I was alive and he was dead? My mind still can’t wrap around that. It makes people uncomfortable though, so I generally keep that grief locked away tight. I take it out for airing in private. It’s just better that way.
I wouldn’t wish that experience on my worst enemy.
Now though, I focus more on the future. I have a granddaughter that is the light of my life. She’s my little hot shot, the celebrity of our clan, you might say. She is a miracle in my eyes, something I never thought I’d get to see, let alone hold her hand. Her bright eyes light up when she sees me, and that alone is worth more than all the money in the world.
Her mother isn’t doing so well though. She has Type 1 diabetes, and a lot of complications. Her kidneys and her eyes aren’t in as good of shape as they should be. I often make the trip to her house and chauffeur her to doctor appointments, as well as spend time with my little girl. There is almost no chance of a second child, but we don’t let that bother us.
The little one absolutely cannot understand that her mama is my baby, and I am her mama’s mama. To her, mama is HERS and HERS alone still. Of course, I’m her grandma, and nobody else’s. She’s right. She is my only grandchild.
I was able to go on her first and second camping trip with her. That was a riot, and something that I’ll always treasure in my memories. Next week, we’ve got another first. I will be going to her very first dance recital. That’s special too.
I get to see my mother too. She came for a visit shortly after the baby was born, and has come each year. This year, she was here far longer than she had originally planned. Her great granddaughter was very sad to see her leave, screaming “Great Grandma!” at the sky for days, as though she was hoping she would hear and come back. She went home in March, but just a couple of weeks ago, I was wearing a pair of shoes that my mother had given me over a year ago because she didn’t like wearing them. (We wear almost the exact same size.) My granddaughter looked down and immediately informed me that I was wearing Great Grandma’s shoes. We had to laugh, even though we were surprised that she remembered a pair of plain white tennis shoes from over a year before. I guessed that the reason was because I never wear white tennis shoes, as I am a stick-in-the-mud. I had worn the same pair of Keens since she was a baby, along with the same pair of knock-off Crocs. It was the first time in her memory that I was wearing something different.
But Mother’s Day is more than about your own mother. It’s about every mother or potential mother that you know. It’s about your wife, your girlfriend, your daughter, your sister, your sister-in-law, your neighbor, your own mom, your aunts…about women, really. Of all ages, all sizes, all shapes, all colors, and all types. It’s a time to honor that femaleness and appreciate it.
Spend a bit of time alone and think about the women that helped shape you into who you are. Some were related, but a great number of them probably weren’t. Some were teachers. Some were just friends. Some were probably people who never knew who you were, like Billie Jean King. She helped me become the woman I am today, and I’ve never met her, nor am I likely to do so. She stood up and stood out, in a way that said it was okay to be different and expect fair treatment anyhow. Watching her, I realized I could be whoever I wanted to be, not who society expected me to be. That doesn’t mean I didn’t pay the price though. I learned about how painful standing out could be at an early age, and how to just grit my teeth and get through it.
I must have done a lot of gritting my teeth over the years. One tooth after another has been sacrificed after cracking or decaying. This year, I will be getting false teeth. While I’ll be a bit sad, and I’m really dreading the pain of the extractions of remaining teeth, I’m looking forward to something I have not been able to do in years.
Chewing my food.
Funny how false teeth reminds me of my Grandma W though. When I’d stay with her, I’d bring her a container of water for her teeth to soak in overnight. On the other hand was my own mother, who had to have her teeth (which had no cavities at all) pulled when she was in her late twenties. I remember the first time I saw her without teeth. She had forgotten to put them in after showering and dressing, and when I said something, she clapped her hand over her mouth and ran up the stairs again. I still have to grin about that. Years later, she had to spend an entire day without them while they were being repaired. She was mortified. Now, she has to take them out at night, and thinks nothing about me seeing her without them. Maybe its the difference in our vanity between being ThirtySomething and SeventySomething.
Corsages, cards, false teeth, wrenches, pliers, wheelbarrows and wagons…for me, they are part of my memories of Mother’s Day.
Most of all, I want everyone to remember to tell the women in their life how important they are to you, as well as how much you appreciate what they do for you. Tell them you love them, treasure the moments.
Because one day, it can all vanish in the blink of an eye, and instead of a warm hug, you will be standing at a cemetery. It really does seem that quick and they are gone. I remember my grandmas, all of them. My daughter remembers one of them, as the others had died before she was born or when she was too young to really remember them. One great grandmother that I never met, my daughter did meet once. I only knew her from stories from my mother, and I wasn’t along on that trip.
I look over our family tree when working on tracing our genealogy. There are a lot of women there, women that are strangers to me. I can’t help but wonder about their lives. What were they really like? What were their dreams? What did they most fervently want and did they ever get it? What made them laugh?
History. Too often, its just HIS story, and we need more herstory. Listen to the women in your life. What is her story? Tell your own story too. After all, that’s what it is really all about, our stories weaving together to create a rich tapestry, and our mothers’ stories are interwoven with our own.
It’s about love and kindness, cruelty and dismissal, unfairness and justice, dreams, of watching your hopes be dashed, or seeing them come to life.
Mother’s Day though, that’s all about the stories and the love. Mothers give up a lot, even now, to be a mother. Once, it was often fatal to bear a child. That’s not true in most countries today, but it still is about sacrificing for the next generation, whether it is time, social activities, career advancements/choices, or even marriage. It’s about putting that next generation’s needs above the current one too.
Maybe we need more mothers in Washington?