For twenty years, Mother’s Day had nothing to do with me. Nothing. I was not a mother and I didn’t have one. People would wish me a happy Mother’s Day sometimes, because I guess I looked like I should be a mom (I guess it’s my life-long tendency toward plumpness that gave the impression) or they would ask what I did for my mom to celebrate.
I remember a time I was 28 or so, back with I worked in the main office of the Toll Road Authority office in Harris County. I was riding up the elevator with the executive director (which is kind of analogous a president of CEO to a privately run entity) on the Monday after Mother’s Day when he asked me if I had a good Mother’s Day.
I shrugged my shoulders. “It was just another Sunday for me,” I said with a smile, “I’m not a mother.”
“But didn’t you do something with your mother?” he asked.
“My mother died a long time ago,” I said. I gave a sad friendly smile, which I thought was the proper expression though I’ve never been really sure. Dead mothers freak people out, especially when you look very young, as I did at the time. I learned in the early years after my mother’s death to create a really, I’m okay air around myself in regard to this. I didn’t like other people looking at me with big, sad eyes.
The executive director was not known for his soft side; in fact, he was kind of a megalomaniac and a blowhard. But his face looked stricken when I told him this. “Well, then; bless your heart, child,” he said softly.
I smiled again, and reinforced my really, I’m okay face. I had just had my heart blessed, which in Southern parlance meant that I was walking around with a neon sign over my head saying that I was tragic and pitiable. I hate those signs. I wanted to reach up and unplug the sign and make it go dark. “It’s been a long time,” I said, “I’m used to the idea.”
Of course, those words only made the neon glow brighter. I was young yet, and the fact that it had been a long time since my mother’s death meant that she had died before I was grown.
“It doesn’t matter how long it’s been,” the executive director said, “that’s still a hard thing.”
Thankfully, the elevator ride ended then and we could walk our separate directions, me still burdened by the flashing neon sign I perceived as hovering over my head.
Six years ago, at the age of 35, I became a mother. Now the day held a new significance; it was a day to honor what I was rather than a day to remind me of what I didn’t have. It felt strange. It still feels strange. I’m not sure what to do with this day. It’s like a dress that I am expected to wear, but it feels like it belongs to someone else and it fits me funny. It’s not my color. It’s not my style. It’s just another Sunday, but with flowers and a card. The problem is that no matter how many years pass I can’t shake the impulse to carry any flowers and cards I get to the cemetery and leave them there. Old habits die hard, I guess.
But I will resist the urge and focus on the living. I will hug my little boy and thank him for his offerings. I will act happy. I am happy, even if any sort of honor at all makes me feel awkward. The only thing I really want for Mother's Day is that nobody bless my heart this year or any other. I'm not sure what to do with those blessings, and until I find a place in my psyche to store them, they just clutter up my mind like so much emotional bric-a-brac.