Mother's Day

Sunday, May 9, 2010

This morning, my email contained a message from Anne Lamott, one in the occasional essays she'll sometimes send out to the writer/reader world.  It's an essay called "Why I hate Mother's Day," and in it she makes this argument:  "...Mother's Day celebrates a huge lie about the value of women:  that mothers are superior beings, that they have done more with their lives and chosen a more difficult path. Ha!  Every woman's path is difficult, and many mothers were as equipped to raise children as wire monkey mothers.  I say that without judgment:  It is, sadly, true.  An unhealthy mother's love is withering."

I've always felt odd about this holiday, too, though hate is a word I reserve for oil spills and terrorism, war and earthquake/tornado aftermaths.  I feel funny, especially, because mothering, to me, has been—well, it's just this simple:  I love the kid to death; he makes me happy.  He hasn't burdened me, he's only broadened me.  He's surprised me, and he's taught me, and he's great to look at, and he's funny.  I don't think I need a gift for getting to hang out with my kid, or some fancy meal.  I feel ashamed, in fact, when they are offered.  What I wish, though, is that my own mother were alive, for since her passing, three and a half years ago, I've been denied so many things—the chance to tell her stories I know she'd like to hear, the chance to bring her flowers and cook her meals, a reason to go hunting for the perfect mother gift.  I bought my mother gifts all year round.  I hardly go into shops anymore; there doesn't seem to be much of a reason.

Yesterday, during a wind storm, I went to visit my mother's grave, still tended by my father with extraordinary care.  Still there, on the ledge, were the silk amaryllis and the ornamental instrument I'd taken during Christmas—so many snowfalls and rainfalls since.  I rocked in the new begonias among my father's sweet pink plants while the tree limbs above my head cracked and twisted.  I doubt the begonias are where I left them.  I imagine the deer came in, or the wind rushed through, or some rabbit had a field day.  But I took the flowers to my mother's grave for my own sake, and because buying for a mother is still a daughter's privilege.


Beth F said...

I have such mixed feelings. I understand what Anne is getting at, and I'll add that it is an especially uncomfortable day for women who chose not to have children or who were unable to have to children. Who wants to be bombarded with "What are you doing this weekend?" and "What did you get?" when it isn't your day at all.

And the sad, pitying, not-so-secret thoughts you can read behind your friends' faces . . . There is no response that doesn't sound defensive or like sour grapes or something.

Yet . . . I am so close to my mother and have been so blessed in my relationship with her that I'm happy to take the time to give her a special day. And yet again . . . I take the time to make her feel special almost every day.

Indigo said...

Happy Mother's Day sweet friend. I have to agree with Anne on some level, some mother's unmasked disappointment and hurt can be withering.

Then there are those saintly souls that that love, shelter and protect, not mother's just people with a mothering tenderness.

In any case none of us would be here if not for a woman giving birth.

Happy Mother's Day sweet friend. (Hugs)Indigo

lib said...

Your mother was extraordinary. She was a gift from God.

Becca said...

I was just about to read that essay of Lamott's, and I'll probably sypathize to some extent with her thoughts. I am fortunate to have a wonderful relationship with my mother, and even more fortunate to be able to see her and talk with her every day. This year more so than any other, I'm aware of how fleeting those days are.

As for me, being a mother is indeed its own gift. To see my son smile or hear him laugh, to hear him expound on a favorite topic or to read the words he writes- all are incomparable gifts. I could only wish to have them more often.

I wish you a day of happy memories of your own mother, and sweet moments with your son.

Elizabeth Mosier said...

Happy Mother's Day, Beth! What a lovely tribute, and so true.


Maya Ganesan said...

You are always so sweet and caring...your family is very lucky to have you. Happy Mother's Day.

Lilian Nattel said...

I'm so sorry that your mother isn't there with you anymore (other than in spirit), but I'm happy for you that you had a good mother. Mother's Day is a creation by the card and gift industry. It isn't a natural holiday or one co-opted from any earlier tradition. It's just a stimulant to the economy. Lots of people feel awkward about it or dislike it for various reasons, not least of which is it sentimentalizes mothering and motherhood to the exclusion of other women's lives and in denial of many harsh realities. There are mothers who wither the souls of their children, as you say. There are many women who have no choice in becoming mothers, and their lives haven't an ounce of sentiment, being mainly drudgery and servitude--though they may heroically strive with all their might to do all they can for their kids.

Amy said...

I guess I'm okay with Mother's Day though I understand this other side. (and btw, there is a Father's Day, too, and many complicated feelings for many associated with that as well!)

I'm so glad you have loved each side of the mother coin...your own mother and being one. That's a true gift.

bermudaonion said...

Mother's Day can be difficult. I did get to see my sister today, but not my mother or my son. I talked to my mother for a while, but at her age, the best gift for either one of us isn't a thing, it's being together and that just didn't work out this year.

Anna Lefler said...

What a gorgeous, thoughtful post, Beth.

Mother's Day is a complicated one for me, as it seems to be for many, many folks.

As usual, when I am wondering how to approach something, I look to you and you seem to get it just right every time.

Thanks for that, friend.



Julia said...

This is such a wonderful post. Your family is more than lucky to have you. Hope you had a great Mother's day.

I do have mixed feelings on the topic too--but, my mother and I are close enough that it's a privilege to devote a day to her.

Then, there are so many that chose not to have children; Nia Vardalos addressed that in a CNN blog article. Which, in my opinion, doesn't mean that they aren't mothers in some way.

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