For those of you who have conflicted relationships with your mothers and find yourselves feeling lukewarm about buying the old bat a pot of flowers, I’m here to rescue you. Appreciate your mother, because unless she intentionally drove off a bridge with you in the van, she is probably better than mine.
A close friend said to me once that he could understand it if I wanted to talk with my father who is also estranged, “but your mother—she is evil. You should never ever speak to her again.” Evil is a word that should probably be reserved for the vilest of villains, like Hitler or Osama bin Laden. In this case, I prefer wicked and not as in “that was totally wicked!”
When I wrote Love Makes a Family, someone I knew in childhood commented that she had always thought my mother was pretty. My long-ago friend said that she admired my mother’s courage as a teen—and then single—mom. She probably thought I was judging my mother too harshly. She may even know my mother or brother, she lives in the same zip code. I am quite sure they wouldn’t readily talk about the real reasons I neither called nor sent a card this Mother’s Day. (If I had I might have said something regrettable.)
My long-ago friend and others probably think I am wrong for telling these stories at all, let alone on the interwebs. “Airing my dirty laundry,” another blogger charged. Yes, only—it isn’t my dirty laundry and I refuse to be ashamed anymore on behalf of those who made and raised me. I am not them. I am me and I am strong in part because I have sawed off the diseased branches in my family tree. It’s a good-looking tree, strong and healthy. I am strong and healthy, despite—not because of—my mother.
When I was a kid, my parents did one thing very right. They took me to my grandparent’s farm regularly. My grandparents weren’t exactly reading Piaget or even Doctor Spock, but they had a better sense of the needs of children and they were always excited to see us, especially me—the first grandchild. This gave me a foundation of love and strength upon which I still stand.
I fondly remember Mother’s Days when my grandmother’s entire brood including every last cousin would descend on the farm. (There were a baker’s dozen in cousins at final count.) One year we got my Grandmother a patio swing as a Mother’s Day gift so she could sit outside in the shade and enjoy the view. (It was an amazing view. I keep a fading photograph of it near my desk.) There were photographs taken that day, too. My grandmother sits in the center of the swinging bench, smiling, a young cousin on her lap and others crowded in all around her. I was maybe ten or eleven and stood beside her, holding a younger cousin, still a baby. It was a beautiful day, sunny, and we were all laughing. That is what I want my kids’ Mother’s Days to feel like, and not like the ones that came later, where I watched to make sure my mother didn’t drink too much, especially because I had no way of knowing if she had been popping pills.
I am sorry to say that I am royally fed up with the Mother’s Day sappiness that is all over the media, and advertisements, all over Facebook, where you are supposed to change your profile picture to a photograph of your mother. I think I’ll change mine:
Happy Mother’s Day to all the good mamas out there, most especially the often-forgotten hard-working single ones. Go ahead, get your sap, it’s your day.