It's just a day. Another day.
Yesterday on npr, I heard that that only fifty percent of women in this country are mothers. I mean, that qualifier could easily be changed--a whopping fifty percent. In the end, it is half of the women who wrestle with this complicated holiday because they are mothers, which I would guess babylost or not, tends to get muddied and weird by awkward husbands and estranged parents. Or awkward parents and estranged husbands. There is a focus on it being YOUR DAY! (Cue the whistles and clowns and confetti.) My day, my ass.
If it is my day, then I am not wiping a single butt, except possibly my own. I am sleeping until I can no longer sleep. I am taking a bath, then draining the tub, then bathing again. I am not eating real food, just picking on exotic foods with hot peppers and stinky cheese. I am watching a marathon of something crappy and girly where people compete for either a modeling contract, or to lose weight, or a reality show of undisclosed suckiness. I am not cleaning, or making the bed, or doing any laundry. I am most certainly drinking coffee until 2pm in which case I will switch to herbal tea with cream and sugar. I am maybe laying in the grass for a nap. I am doing a face mask, possibly paying a charlatan to read my tea leaves. I am not paying attention to who is running with which scissors.
Then there is this other half who are expected to do the mother thing for other women. The other half has to hear all these platitudes and hyperbole bestowed on mothers for weeks leading up to the day, some that truly are insulting to other people who love and care for children, but can't be called a mother in any traditional sense. I mean, I think mamas are great, wonderful boo-boo kissers, and all that stuff, but other people love children and care for children, and sometimes all this focus on biological functioning and mothering is fucked up. In my humble opinion. We are women with faults and weirdness and sometimes we are not great mothers. Lots of my friends wrestle with their own relationship with their mama. Anyway, all this feels like it is destined to be a day where expectations, imagined to be drawn with a strong dark line in Sharpie, are now kind of a shaded pencil blob, and no one knows what the hell to do. And everyone is disappointed.
But it is just a day, like any other day. And I try not to think of it as something fraught. It is just another opportunity to express my love for my mother, and for my kids to take a moment to remember who wipes whose butt and why that is important. I like milking the day. I especially like doing it in a way that makes my husband laugh, yet succumb. My husband is an amazing man. He wakes up on Mother's Day and says, "It's your day, what do you want to do?" He always gets my children to draw me a card, and buys me something for the garden. This year, I came home Saturday morning and there was a beautiful bench under my Japanese Maple, a pail of Gerbera daisies next to it and a woodpecker feeder hanging off the tree. It was magical and perfect. As my bike rolled up, I was bouncing in my seat. It is gorgeous, and exactly, exactly, the kind of thing I wanted. I was just in awe of how wonderful my husband can be. And it does feel good to be listened to and heard. We loaded the kids into the car and drove to my mom's. Even in traffic, I was grateful to be with him and have the luxury to talk while the children slept behind us. That was my Mother's Day, which wasn't on Mother's Day, or even a day. It was just a moment of being in love and happy and contented.
I missed Lucy, sure. I noticed that Beatrice didn't draw her in our family picture in the card, but I also don't think I should keep pounding Lucy into everything. Lucy is part of our lives. Beatrice talks about her, but she doesn't always add her into everything. And that is okay. Her relationship with Lucy will change through the years. She is four. I need to accept wherever she is. And not impose my adult need to have Lucy onto my kids.
This year was the first year since Lucy died that I decided I should be a dutiful daughter and accept the invite offered by my own mother--to come to her house for Mother's Day weekend, to see my aunt/Godmother who is visiting from Panama, to talk with my cousins, hang out in her house with the beautiful sprawling property with woods and creek and eat delicious Panamanian food. We love going there for the most part, even though it can be chaotic and crazy and I tend to drink too much, eat too much, bitch too much. Jack the dog becomes a different dog--a permasmile and an impossibly joyful disposition. It makes me think my dog is depressed by living in New Jersey with a fenced in yard and no creek to swim in. Come to think of it, that makes me depressed too.
My mother decided not to invite my aunt, after all, rather she invited my sister's inlaws who have a child the same age as Lucy would have been, because there is nothing that a babylost mama loves more than being around a shadow baby on a day that is already fraught with grief and anxiety and thoughts of what would be. But it wasn't about me, as I kept repeating in my head. This is just another day, like any other day. This is what my mother wanted. This is what my sister wanted. It isn't about me.
It is ironic, because I never really do that in my head--imagine what she would be doing, or guess at her age and her milestones. It is all too heartbreaking, and yet, when this little beautiful girl came by, making "ribbit" noises like a frog, it took every ounce of strength not to implode and scream and lash out at people who did nothing but successfully breed. I isolated. I walked down the hill to the creek and I turn around and the entire party followed me after hours of not noticing the stream. I kept moving forward until I had to turn around and pass the child. My heart broke again then, and I cried again then. I think watching Beatrice play with her, hold her hand, love her was the hardest part of the entire day. I tried to ignore all of it, but my daughter was so beautiful and kind and I can't help but stare at her.
But I am a self-centered person full of grief and raw emotions, pretending I was something else was my first mistake. And it isn't just a day, like any other day. It is a day about mothers and all the crap that comes with them. I read this quote by Kara on The Facebook the other day, ""I'll celebrate with you as long as you will first mourn with me. It is the combination of the two that lends itself to the true meaning of Mothers Day." And that is it. Exactly. I felt like I had no place in the day unless I was willing to let go of my grief. That is why my body and brain rebelled I guess, because I cannot let go of a part of mothering for me. I mother all three of them. Maybe I have to expect any mothering experience to be a third Beezus, a third Thomas and a third Lucy.
I finally just left. I may not have been pleasant. Probably not. I felt pretty betrayed, honestly. My mother told me that Lucy would want me to find joy. That Lucy doesn't want me to be sad anymore. That she lives in my heart. And I am so sick of people telling me what Lucy wants. Lucy is dead. Allow me to be sad on a day that reminds me that my baby girl isn't with me. I am not sad everyday, or even most days, but let me BE when I am. Being around much-adored children makes me miss Lucy with an intensity that sometimes still surprises me. It caught me all off-guard, the Mother's day, because it is just a day. I don't generally subscribe to that school of thought that Hallmark holidays should get more than a polite mention at the market checkout line. But the meaningful coming together of intensive advertising and marketing, party, two year old, grief and happiness resulted in a pretty emotionally raw day, couple that with early sobriety and the acuteness of my usual way of dealing is numbing myself out with wine and power-eating, I had to eventually call Uncle and just take care of myself.
Driving home, it occurred to me that maybe Mother's Day is supposed to be a day that is fraught and complicated and emotionally difficult for everyone, because that is exactly what it is like to have a mother and be a mother. Maybe it is a day where we should be bringing cards to our therapist, or just having therapy. But maybe the cathartic thing about the day is that it is not easy and we have to think about our relationship to that word and that state of being.
When I got home, I went right into the bathroom and drew myself a bath and did the crossword puzzle, then I drained the tub and did it again, and Thor crawled up and tried to get in himself, and so I put him in with me, and we played and kissed and got wet. Then I made a cup of herbal tea, and the kids jumped around the house, and I felt okay again. I could see Lucy's heartbreakingly small urn in the secretary, and it felt right to be with her there. It all meshes so easily when I don't try to be so fucking normal. I may never leave my house again.
What was your mother's day like?