Saturday, May 11, 2013

This Day of Reckoning

May 11th, 2013

Dear Mom,

As Mother's Day approaches, I can't help but think about you, and me, you and me.  You'd scoff at that, I know, remind me that this holiday was manufactured to create revenue for the greeting-card industry, and I'd shrug, lips pressed together, because there never was any point in arguing with you, and also because I've always been more conventional than you.  Mother's Day makes me thrill, oh yes it does, and I'll take my little thrills when and where I find them.

Once, when I was a poor graduate student, I sent you flowers from Chicago.  I was so proud of my detective work in finding a florist only two blocks from you and ordering direct, as opposed to using a middleman, FTD or the like.  What can I say?  I was twenty-four years old, still trying on adulthood and checking myself out from every angle in the three-way mirror of life's dressing room.

I called on that Mother's Day (1992, it must have been), and I asked you if you'd received the flowers.  You replied, "Oh, yes, I did; you shouldn't have, Sarah, because I don't at all care about this day, but just so you know, don't buy from that florist again, because the flowers were wilted and old."

You were always brutally honest like that.  I wonder now if you didn't have a mild form of Asperger's.  You did not - could not, would not? - traffic in social niceties.  I imagine my post-college sons sending me flowers, and I can think of no earthly reason why I would want to inform them that their flowers might be anything less than exquisite.  Nor would I be lying - the generosity inherent in the gesture of sending me flowers, remembering me on Mother's Day, would sanctify those flowers, whatever their physical form happened to be.

I write all of this, however sad it once made me, in a strangely detached way.  Time has done that, allowed me to become matter-of-fact and accepting.  Now I see you without distortion: I see you for precisely who you were.  I understand you, and understanding makes forgiveness easy.  Look at that!  I no longer have to try on adulthood.  I am, finally, an adult.

And so, even though in response you'd roll your eyes and say something gruff and possibly unkind, I wish you a Happy Mother's Day in my unironic, conventional way, and you know what?  I love you despite your imperfections.  I might even love you because of them.  They were a part of you, no different from your tiny child's nose, your broad shoulders, your upside-down smile.  To love people wholly is to accept them as they are, not as they might have been, if only.

And I do love you wholly, and I thank you, for loving me the best, and only, way you could.



Liz said...

Lovely. Wishing you a very happy Mothers' Day, in a totally unironic way.

Christine said...

A bittersweet piece, Sarah. I'm glad you've found love and forgiveness. xo

V-Grrrl @ Compost Studios said...

A day of reckoning. Yes.

I sometimes wonder how my children will judge my mothering skills when they're fully matured adults...I know that however they view it down the road, I will always see raising children and being a mother as the most fulfilling challenge I ever took on.

Mary Gilmour said...

I am tending my grandkid this week and weekend - a mother's day gift from the older daughter. The younger one is out at my home making dinner (she has phoned twice already about bits for it) and helping her father so I won't have to do the heavy lifting.

I love my adult daughters and I think (mostly) we are friends, although as I clean kitty litter boxes and drive the budding gymnast all over the city, sometimes I think a little less togetherness would not hurt.

I lost my loving, clinging worry-wart of a mother back in 1989. I still cry on this holiday. You see, I couldn't cry before because I always needed to be cheerful and together for her. I sure hope she doesn't know.

You always make me tear up, too, dutiful and anguished daughter that you still are. As far as I can tell, though, you are doing a fine mothering job yourself and I am sure your sons will send you flowers, even if their wives have to remind them.


Elizabeth Dahl said...

I appreciate that this piece breathes life into real motherhood so unlike the impossible standards of greeting cards. My mom did what she could with what she had and so did I, so will my daughters. I wish I could have some of that time back but I see how my mistakes became catalysts for growth for all of us. I gave birth to my youngest daughter on Mother's Day 22 years ago, my favorite gift ever! I celebrate this day, with faraway children and grandchildren with the quiet knowledge of the high calling.

alejna said...

This brought tears to my eyes. I love what you said about loving people wholly.

I find it so interesting to see how your relationship with your mother evolved, and how it continues to evolve even after she is gone. It makes me think about how the most meaningful relationships we have are not static and unchanging. I know that is true in my own life, too.

De said...

I admire your ability to be true to yourself, your feelings, and how you express them. I'm still trying to figure out how to keep the pain my mother recklessly doles out from actually hurting.

Chibi said...

Sending you much love. <3