I have never been much into the whole Mothers’ Day celebration. That one opens the store ads the Sunday before and a veritable parade of soaps, lotions, appliances, garments and “chick flicks” are displayed prominently doesn’t help matters. This week, wherever I go and whatever I do, someone will ask “so…what do you want the kids to give you for Mothers’ Day?” This poses a quandary…
I have been, without pause, a mother for the past 21 years and five days…isn’t that enough recognition right there? I’ve been peed on, pooped on, barfed on, cried on; sat in principals’ offices, doctors’ offices, dentists’ offices, psychiatrists’ offices; I’ve been to recitals, graduations, awards ceremonies, boy scouts’ events; I’ve sewn patches, costumes, holes in socks and pants; I’ve made cupcakes, cakes, sandwiches, breads and assorted gift baskets for assorted teachers, aides, assistants, and so forth. I’ve earned my stripes by selling raffle tickets, chocolate bars, theater tickets, t-shirts, wrapping paper, popcorn, cookie dough… I have hostessed meetings and sleepovers. I’ve gone to Urgent Care, emergency rooms. I’ve dropped kids off at the crack of dawn for overnight field trips that yielded no rest, just an increase in worry. I’ve bought glasses that broke in two days, pants that were outgrown in ten minutes, shoes that didn’t last a whole school year (even though construction workers would go for years with the same brand and model under what would seem to be more strenuous circumstances.) I’ve celebrated birthday parties in classrooms, bought ice cream for forty kids and then wiped the remaining drips from every surface, gathered all the trash, cleaned frosting and received numerous “we already got these stickers from Georgie’s birthday last month” from the participants. I, who never really trick-or-treated, have paraded my children around the neighborhood dressed like Legolas, Godzilla, a Lego character, a bat, Sub-Zero from Mortal Kombat, the Sorcerer’s Apprentice, James Bond, etc., etc., etc. and then inspected all the candy, discarded half of it, dispensed one-eighth of the remaining amount over the course of two weeks and consumed the remaining seven-eighths. I have sat through the same movie and listened to the same song, over and over and over and over and over and… I’ve walked around carrying a crying baby, consoled a wailing teenager, calmed down an anxious young man… I’ve helped prepare Valentines, Christmas cards, thank-you notes… In spite of obvious deterioration to my memory, I can remember who fell when and required what and who is allergic to what and whose teeth are which in the little porcelain heart that someone got me at the jumble sale at school for less than two dollars twelve years ago.
What do I want for Mothers’ Day? I kinda like the concept of the self-renewing, self-validating gift that is taking out the trash without complaining, not leaving socks or dirty laundry on the floor or just plain ol’ being nice to mom out of the blue.
It is around this time each year that I travel back into my great-aunts’ closets. There, piled one on top of the other, would be an assortment of scented soaps, scented talcum powder, embroidered handkerchiefs. Perhaps they’d receive an umbrella or yet another bottle of eau de bain, mostly Jean Naté. At one point there were so many bottles of this particular scented “toilet water” (as one of them would say) that they proposed making bowling pins out of them. The more caustic one chimed in “heaven forbid! Should we knock one over and it cracks, can you imagine the preposterous stench we’d have to live with?” Another said: well, sure beats ALL of them cracking. And then they laughed.
Once in a while, a box of Whitman’s chocolates would make its way to them. Other times they’d get cotton nightgowns or slippers. On a particularly happy occasion, one of them received a box of stockings (yes, back when hosiery came in a box) and she happily chirped that now she had tissue paper for a present that required some more sophistication in its wrapping.
As far as my children are concerned, Mothers’ Day is yet another excuse to shop for something I don’t need, and they tend to ignore the date except to kiss my forehead and say “Happy Mothers’ Day” with a lilt in their voices. J, bless him, always comes home with something he’s made at school and my house is full of candle holders made from clay, papier-mâché figures that might be animals, abstracts or mere dried lumps of no particular significance. J, who doesn’t know on an everyday basis what the concept of “mother” is about, simply knows that he’s being made to manufacture something that says “I love you” to someone who is quite aware of the fact that she is loved and needed.
My aunts would tell me to love them everyday, even when I didn’t feel like it…in fact, ESPECIALLY when I didn’t feel like it. I’ve tried to tell the kids the same, and I think they understand this in their own unorthodox way. J, even when he’s angry at me, will come up and put his face against mine, asking for a kiss even as he looks irate and impatient with the woman who is always there. I try to do the same: I try to show them I love them even as I feel like giving them a swift kick in the pants…isn’t that what motherhood is all about?
The other day I was reading the news online and I was struck by how people so freely declare that a celebrity with a newborn (an actually born-this-morning newborn) is immediately a “great parent.” How do they know? How does anyone know how good a parent they are until way after the fact? Is Mothers’ Day (heaven help me) a child’s opportunity to evaluate mom’s work throughout a 365 day period? Have I declined the opportunity to have a performance evaluation conducted and put in my record for all eternity? If that is the case, who gets to read the whole record and determine, at the end of the process, if I’ve been a good mother in general?
If that’s the case, my record is incomplete. I have yet to wake up on a Mothers’ Day to a toaster, breakfast in bed, a new nightgown…I do, though, have a living room full of items produced by the children in the production-line fashion applied in elementary school classrooms…
Maybe I should start lobbying for something nice…like an espresso machine or a bottle of Chanel No. 5 or…
Nah…I’d rather have the trash taken out every single day. I’m sure the Performance Evaluation Committee will count that for something…right?