Musings of a Motherless Mother on Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day has come and gone, another Hallmark holiday meant to guilt-trip the neglectful – perhaps spoken like a person whose mother (and mother-in-law) is long gone. It’s nice to be recognized throughout the year, not just on major or minor holidays. Do we really need sappy commercials to remind us that somewhere, sometime, someone was there to push the slimy being you once were out into the brave new world?

I’m sometimes annoyed when I hear people talking about their mothers in disparaging terms. They may have their problems, be eccentric, weird, dysfunctional, heartless, or abusive. They may wear miniskirts and push-up bras when you might wish they would choose something more demure. God forbid, they might like your bands, your sports, and your movies. They may drone on and on and on, repeating the same stories you’ve heard forever until you think the muscles in your face could cringe no more. They may be physically unwell or emotionally crippling.

Or they could be like mine, taking up space under a shady tree in a Fountain, Colorado cemetery. Or like my mother-in-law, whose ashes are on a shelf in my basement.

Though I have no mothers left in my life, I happen to be one, blessed with two children of my own. While they would describe me as a “mean” mom (or clueless, embarrassing, stupid, or hopelessly out of date, among other descriptors), they won’t know the depth of my feelings toward them until they become parents themselves.

That’s how it was for me.

Mothers aren’t perfect humans, although many of them strive to be. My own mother was the least perfect person I knew. If my husband’s mother had known her, she would have thought her to be incredibly selfish and mentally unbalanced. Her life was hers, and never once did it revolve around her children. My mother-in-law was the exact opposite; she lived and breathed through her children and mine. She bent over backward in the opposite direction in an attempt to be the perfect mother and grandmother.

I had hoped to find a happy medium, but it’s easy to get swept into the lives of your spawn. After all, it’s through them that you witness a new germination of hopes and dreams, dreams you were either too busy or too lazy to see to fruition for yourself. There were dance recitals, sports, music competitions, cheerleading, scouts, gymnastics, scholastic achievements, art classes, and more. Motherly pride got quite a workout in those days. Perhaps I felt a need to make up for all the parent-teacher conferences my own mother never attended.

As it happens all too often, somewhere along the way it became un-cool to have such an attentive mother. It’s sometimes un-cool to have any mother at all. So like many mothers, I faded to the background of my children’s lives, only to emerge for culinary or monetary emergencies. Besides, they’re adults now.

My favorite book growing up was Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet, and my favorite passage was “On Children.”

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts.
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as he loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable.

This passage carried me through my turbulent teen years and a strained relationship with my own mother. When I was 16, I read this to her in an attempt to get her to look at my perspective. She thought it was the most onerous thing ever written. Like a lot of mothers of her era, she believed in the exact opposite. Children were your property and responsibility to be molded and beaten into shape, not given opportunities for discovery.

Mothers are the building blocks for life, not the entire foundation. They hold an important role, one that deserves respect, but at some point the child has to take a step up and away. I know many people who blame their mothers for the life they have today. Children should be able to learn from the missteps of their parents as well as from their success. You can only levy so much of your circumstance on your mother; the rest is up to you.

On this motherless Mother’s Day, I didn’t wait for phone calls or presents from my faraway kids. My day was already planned from dawn to dusk with things I wanted to do.

I’m too far away to have visited my mother’s grave last Sunday (coincidentally her birthday), but I think I’ll get my mother-in-law a new urn.

And I’ll open up The Prophet and have a cup of tea.


Someone Save Me From Myself

I enjoyed a wonderful Mother’s Day, which included a sumptuous brunch at a local high-brow eatery. Since I’m the mom and it was my day, I decided on the venue. I chose brunch, knowing full well that I wasn’t going to be coerced into cooking dinner. Not on MY DAY, people. I also chose the fancy-schmancy digs because I’ve had their food before. It’s some of the best this major metropolitan area has to offer.

On the way down to brunch, I was entertained by the two other Demonics, Mr. and Ms. Mini-D, who used the twenty minutes in the car to complain. Mr. D remembered our last brunching experience there (back in 1999) as chaotic and crowded. Ms. Mini-D complained that her feet hurt in her new high heels. I just smiled. I was getting my brunch, dammit.

Once we arrived, they were surprised. It wasn’t so crowded (the economy is pretty sucky, who can afford brunch), and they gave us a nice little table for three. There was a live band and we had to pass by the dessert table to get to the ballroom. The smell of chocolate was heavenly and we barely made it into the main dining area.

Brunch is best tackled diplomatically. My modus operandi is to stay away from anything too heavy. I won’t do a made-to-order omelet, just because eating one takes up too much valuable stomach space. I tend to scoop up my portions in tiny little tastes, thus leaving room for more opportunities. Needless to say, (and I’m ashamed to admit this) but this list is just part of what I ate: raw oysters, shrimp cocktail, luncheon meats and cheeses, stone crab claws, Caesar salad, eggs Benedict, sushi, mozzarella and tomato salad, prime rib, mashed potatoes, mixed vegetables, and pasta. Of course, there was an array of desserts, which included teeny-tiny creme brulee, raspberry mousse, chocolate covered strawberries, fondue, and yummy lemon bars. I washed it all down with some good strong coffee and mimosas made with freshly squeezed orange juice and plenty of champagne.

This was not the entire brunch, but is instead a brief run down on just what I ate. There was a lot more that I didn’t even get to. There was more that I ate and forgot. I’m a foodie. I tend to recall the memorable morsels of deliciousness and the more mundane items that neglected to entertain my palate fall off the radar and into the abyss of memory loss.

After engorgement, we went home. The sky opened up and the rain was cold and relentless. We were too bloated for outside activities anyway. My dear Mr. D settled down to watch golf. Ms. Mini-D took up residence in the basement. It was too cold for me to type, so I decided to watch “Mildred Pierce” on an upstairs TV. Joan Crawford starred as the mother who did too much for her snotty, spoiled daughter. Turner Classic Movies decided to make poke fun at mothers on Mother’s Day.

By 3:30, I had dozed off. I’m thinking that cold, rainy weather and dark skies made taking a nap a viable enterprise. When I woke up at 5, I still felt like a fattened pig. I was chock full of tryptophan and champagne, and barely made it downstairs, where Mr. D was yelling at Phil Mickelson and Sergio Garcia.

“I have to go on a diet.” It was all I could say.

“Yeah, tomorrow.” He didn’t even look up. He always says that when I mention dieting.

“No, I’m serious!” I always am, but like food too much.

“Grubble, gruff, maygle…” Mr. D often mutters under his breath. I don’t have a clue what he said, but that’s what it sounded like.

I can tell he’s not going to be very helpful. I’m going to need someone else to help save me from myself.