A friend posted something on Facebook yesterday that I’ve been pondering ever since. She wrote of her ambivalent feelings about Mother’s day and her awareness that it’s not a happy flowers and chocolates kind of day for everyone.
There are mothers who have lost children and children who have lost mothers. I have a friend whose mother passed away when my young friend was only age seven, a deep cut that never completely healed. There are mothers and children with strained relationships. There are women who’ve chosen not to have children and those who long for a child. There are are those with children they didn’t want…or who are a disappointment or burden to them.
This morning I listened to a podcast that reaffirmed the fact that while there are excellent mothers, there are terrible ones, too. The things some parents do to their children are Horrible, Horrific, and Heinous. In my sheltered little world, mothers were kind and loving. They washed your clothes, prepared your food, and kissed your boo-boos. I recall having a visceral reaction, a nauseating one, as I read about the cruelty inflicted on Chris Sizemore, the real “Eve” in The Three Faces of Eve.
Trust me when I say that I’ve read about and listened to accounts of mistreatment and neglect by mothers that haunt me. Like my friend, I’m sensitive to the negative emotions experienced on Mother’s day. I too feel ambivalent about its celebration. At the same time, I had a wonderful mother and wish others could have had the same experience. Would keeping quiet about her virtues assuage their pain? No.
As writer Marianne Williamson said, your playing small serves no one (paraphrase). Downplaying my mother’s life and influence serves no one.
Here’s an incident that occurred late in my mother’s life that, in two short words, shows what kind of woman raised me and my fortunate siblings.
About two years before she died, my mother and I were going through some growing pains that were trying for both of us. Determined to make my own choices at the ripe age of fifty, I turned a deaf ear to her entreaties to straighten up and fly right.
Talking didn’t work. Nothing did. Neither of us wanted to say anything to wound or upset the other. I decided to take Melody Beattie’s advice and detach with love so that both of us could simmer down and develop some empathy.
For years, I had faithfully called her each Sunday evening at 6:00 PM. In those days, a long distance call was serious business—expensive too. But Sunday night arrived, and I couldn’t/wouldn’t dial her number. I felt burdened, bothered, and befuddled, and I didn’t want to hear any words of wisdom no matter how well-intended. She didn’t call me either.
Another Sunday came and went. No call, no words, no communication. I swallowed hard, a lump in my throat. Was she angry? Hurt? Uncaring? I could be stubborn, too!
The following Sunday was Mother’s day, and as the week unfolded, I began to get antsy. I had never missed spending that day with my mother and knew that regardless of my attitude, I couldn’t miss this one either. She was my mother, after all, and a darned good one. The best.
On Friday morning, I dialed her number. The phone rang and rang until finally her message machine clicked on. Phew, I didn’t have to talk yet. I left a cryptic, matter-of-fact message about coming to see her on Mother’s day and hung up, relieved that I’d done something. The ball was in her court.
The phone rang five minutes later. This was before the day of Caller ID, and I didn’t dream she’d be calling back so soon.
“Hello,” I said.
“Hello, Darlin’,” my mother said, her voice the first I’d heard upon my arrival on Earth, the voice of reason, comfort, assurance, discipline, forgiveness, and love. Always love. In those two words, I heard everything I needed to know.
That’s the kind of mother I had.
While I appreciate Mother’s day and all it symbolizes, I realize that everyone doesn’t feel the same way. There are women and men, boys and girls, who suffer each of the twenty-four hours of the day and just want it to be done. I’m sensitive to that, and yet I couldn’t let another day pass without paying tribute to Mama.