Mother’s Day is fast approaching. When I spoke with my sister this week she asked if we had special plans. The truth is no, since I am usually the planner of most things around our house it would be up to me to plan Mother’s Day.
If I did plan the day, it would consist of a drive and stops at various garden centers and shops and bookstores along the beautiful Connecticut River Valley.
Three kids on such an adventure does not spell relaxation. It rather sets up all three for a day of complaining which would in turn make me wonder what had ever taken hold of me enough to have these kids in the first place. So my response was, ”nothing special.”
When my mother passed away six years ago, it took some of the steam out of Mother’s Day. There are times during the year her loss is felt more acutely and Mother's Day is one of them. After my mother had died, my cousin had described her father's death feeling like a hole left in her heart that gets smaller but never completely goes away. I understood exactly what she meant and on Mother's Day that hole expands.
My mother was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis before I was born. It was a fact in our house and nothing I had to adjust myself to. For my mother, I am sure it was much more than that. I am sure her life at times seemed daunting, that as a mother she wasn't quite living up to the expectation.
But as her daughter, my mother was just who she was, nothing more, nothing less. In the fourth grade, my sister, my mother and I were at my school for a parent/ teacher night. We walked down the hall, my sister pushing my mother’s wheelchair and I was walking along beside her, holding the arm rest of her chair. We passed one of my classmates.
He slowed down, smiled at me and kept walking, glancing back once as if he wasn’t sure if he was seeing straight. The next day he approached me and said, "Your mom can’t walk?” And I answered as any self-respecting fourth-grader would, "yeah, so?”
This encounter did not change how I saw my mother but it did make me realize that others saw her differently. That perhaps others felt sorry for her or our family. But those who knew her best did not waste their time on pity.
My mother was kind and organized, sweet and stern and she seemed to have a special part of her brain made out of a reinforced steel just for remembering things. She could recall phone numbers, dates and what I had said on the phone three years earlier to a friend about a cute guy who happened to — three years later — call me; and two years later marry me. I cannot remember to pick up milk without a reminder from my 3-year-old. Apparently, memory skips a generation.
My mother was gullible and fun and even as a teenager I often preferred her company over that of my peers. It never mattered to me that she couldn’t walk across a room, she was always present. She never missed a concert, play, banquet, graduation, wedding or baby shower. She always remembered birthdays and anniversaries. She was happy when we were happy. She worried when we were not. She tried to fix what she could and when she couldn’t she would tell us how wonderful we were and that things would get better.
I don’t remember from one Mother’s Day to the next what I gave her. I am sure in my early years there were homemade gifts, as my children bestow upon me each year. And I know in kindergarten I gave her anxiety when the gerbils I brought home from school for the weekend decided to practice some cannibalism.
And again in seventh grade when the pet rat I brought home from science class managed to escape his cage overnight. I am pretty sure I gave her some gray hair when I announced I preferred to not go to college but rather head to California like a free-loving hippie. But like all good mothers the small moments of anxiety and trauma never eclipsed the greater feelings of love and awe.
This year, I will love my homemade gifts and bask in the few moments that my children sing my praises before they move on to more important things like video games and fighting with one another. I will be thankful for the beautiful women in my life who help me steer the obstacle ridden pathway of motherhood.
I will remember my own mother who promised she would never leave me because she knew she would always be near in my children's laughter and my sister’s smile and my father's hug. I will know what a blessing motherhood is and what really matters is not what you offer physically but what you offer from your spirit.
Because that will travel with our children forever.