If we were having coffee, I’d wish you a Happy Mother’s Day if you’re a mother, and maybe whether you are or not we would talk about our own mothers, grandmothers, and the other women who mothered us.
With unadulterated affection I’d tell you about my Auntie Helene, possibly the most motherly woman I ever knew, fat and pink-cheeked and ready with a hug. She taught me a bunch of what I know about unconditional love. She raised me until I was 5 years old and was fond of saying, all my life, “You’ll never be so big I can’t spank you”, even long after I topped her by a head, yet she never lifted a hand to me. She’s with me every time I fry pancakes, pull the gallon of milk from the back of the dairy case, or hear someone order a highball.
Telling you about my own mom would be harder going, because ours was a fraught relationship at best and she died of cancer when I was 21. We had been estranged prior to her illness but I would tell you, over the second cup, that I had the blessing of the last chance many do not get, the one when it’s too late to talk out the issues but both parties find it possible to say, “I love you,” and that simple truth suffices, saving the life of the one left behind.
I wonder if we would agree that for some, Mother’s Day does not come with unmitigated joy. We might speculate that for those who have lost children, or never had babies when it was their chief desire in life to do so, the day might be bittersweet. Ones like me, who had difficult mothers, or those who were orphaned and never found one of those remarkable women who love children not their own. Maybe you would think it odd, but I often think of Paul’s first, late wife, Jackie, on Mother’s Day. She died way too young and left behind four beautiful children. All have children of their own now, two born too late to ever meet their grandmother. I always wonder if, in those last few months of her life, she was royally pissed off that she wouldn’t get to see how her children’s stories turned out; I would be. I worry that her children probably have a sad moment or three on Mother’s Day, and I’m grateful to Jackie for raising four kids so lovingly they were capable of welcoming me into their father’s life.
We could talk about our own children and you, like everyone who meets me would come to know I am a pain in the arse when you get me going on the subject of my daughter, of whom I am terribly proud. She’s brilliant, caring, respectful, insightful, compassionate, beautiful, successful, and I often wonder just what the hell God thought he was doing to entrust such an amazing creature to my care. I failed her many times but I also did some things rather well, and my best, like most mothers everywhere. Having her in my life gave me a much greater understanding of my own mother, in the circular way Life has of teaching the most important lessons; I did things very differently than my mother did, but the understanding has been a unexpected gift.
If we were having coffee, you would probably admire the flowers gracing the table, the mantle, and kitchen counter as between Paul and Charlotte, my flower cup runneth over with roses, lilies, and tulips. Paul also gave me the gift of schlepping my camera equipment while I took pictures of running water for my photography class, treated me to Waffle House after, and we have a fine dinner planned tonight at our favorite Italian restaurant.
If we were having coffee I would press you to have another scone and some of the strawberry jam I made last week, and we’d lift our cups to mothers everywhere, and their children, too, in a toast they all make it through Sunday, whether that means coping with memories still sensitive to the touch, or eating burnt toast and runny eggs prepared by lovingly inept children. May everyone find a moment Sunday and everyday to remember moments of motherly love.