What do I have to say about Mother's Day?
Hundreds, nay, probably thousands of books and essays have been written about mothers and the mother/daughter dynamic. Who am I to contribute?
I'm just a 46-year old woman who misses her Mummy on Mother's Day.
I don't love days like Mother's Day.
I don't feel quite as strongly as Anne Lamott's reflective
essay "I Hate Mother's Day." I mean, you don't HAVE to buy into the
hype of this highly commercialized holiday (although it originated with best of intentions when Anna Jarvis crusaded to have President Wilson make it an official holiday in 1914.) But somehow, for those of us
with more complicated relationships with our mothers, it creeps under our skin. Maybe it's the way the chocolate-less, flower-less singletons feel
on Valentine's Day. The day doesn't really mean anything unless the love lies beneath, but somehow
you want to celebrate it in the same way as everyone else—with grand shouts of "Hurrah!" and "You're my Best Friend!" and buy the largest, glitzy-est Hallmark card you can find.
Not all of us have had a Hallmark life. I scroll down my Facebook news-feed in a kind of anesthetized awe. Picture after tribute after link celebrating maternal love. I blink and think, "How nice. How fortunate for you." No truly. This just wasn't our story.
My mother and I haven't lived in the same country for 20 years. In fact, it
was just over 20 years ago, that she moved back to Denmark to spend
some time with my Bedstemor and Bedstefar, her parents. It is not easy to have a long-distance relationship with anyone. Everything is heightened. Especially across the 5, 590 miles from Los Angeles to Denmark. Miscommunication ebbed and flowed like the waves of the Atlantic Ocean we had to cross to even be in the same room with each other. It is simply not the same when you can't sit for long hours over tea and chat, or feel
the softness of their skin inside a hug. Or look into their eyes and say, "I love you, Mum."
Shit happens. Sometimes it just plops there, a big, giant stinkin'
turd of a problem. And sometimes it just streams and streams and
streams: The death of a husband and father, kidney disease, kidney transplant,
mother/daughter separation, chronic kidney rejection, a second kidney transplant, addiction, rehab, relapse, marital
And then, recovery.
I guess it just takes some of us longer than others to figure out how to deal with the mess.
We know when we know.
We all come from a mother. Some people never know their mothers, they are abandoned at birth. Some people are adopted and wander in a kind of wonder. Some people lose their mothers when they are very young. Some mothers are sick, abusive and unkind. And some mothers smother you until you simply can't breathe.
I believe there is a little patch of our hearts
reserved just for our mothers. She can rip it out, and she can stitch it
back together. She can embroider it with terms of endearment or she can leave it plain. We can find similar love and support and respect in other women, but it's never quite the same. That patch of your heart will always belong to her. To your mother.
At least, that is my experience. Because today, that corner of my heart aches for my Mummy.
What I miss/love about my Mummy:
How she would make me whatever I wanted to eat when I would come out of the hospital.
How we would crank Boney's M's "Rasputin" to volume 10.
How her hands would brush away strands of hair off my feverish forehead.
How an "umbilicus" was NOT a belly button and a penis was NOT a "wiener."
How she went to Cuba by herself.
Her perfect cheese sauce.
How she wanted to make my wedding dress.
How she made Kevin feel like a member of the family from the day they met.
How she would take car repair classes and vegetarian cooking classes in equal measure.
How she was right. That when I finally took yoga, it did help my headaches.
The way she noticed the dogs' nose marks on my glass door, when the rest of my house was spotless.
The way she can knit a sweater while watching an episode of "Coronation Street." (Well, almost.)
How my heart aches and aches for her whenever I hear the perfect, pop pitch of ABBA.
How she would buy me all my favorite foods when we came to Denmark.
How she gave me her kidney.
How she saved my life.
Does everyone have this memory? The memory that tears out your heart every time you relive it?
It was 10 years ago. Mum and I were at a taping of "Dr. Phil" in Los Angeles. Ah, he was her Bono. Truly. She was all titter-y and I was excited to share this with her. We sat in the holding area. Each guest of The Dr. Phil show was asked to fill out a card listing topics you would like to see on future episodes. I have no idea what I wrote, but I sneaked a peak at her card. In her beautiful penmanship she had scrolled, "How can Dr. Phil help me stay close to my children who are so far away?"
That's the one. That's the memory. The one that floods my eyes and shreds my soul.
How do we stay close to those who are so far away?
By realizing that "we" is not the same as "me." That I can do things differently. And that I want to.
Yes. Shit has happened. But the beauty of it is it can be cleaned up, if you are willing to get a little bit dirty. And I am.
So, no. I don't totally hate Mother's Day. Because I have a mother. And I love her very much.
We are still not close. She now lives 1,735 miles away in Saskatoon, Canada. But across that vast distance I can shout with a full and grateful heart, "I LOVE YOU, MUM!" And work to shrink the distance between us.
I love you, Mum.