May is a signature month. It’s crammed for mothers who try to fly around to attend end-of-year school performances and recitals, picnics and carnivals, turnover meetings for end-of-year committees and organizations — not to mention shop for graduation and prom clothes for their offspring.
Therefore, it is only fitting that smack dab in the middle of the merry, lusty month of May we have Mother’s Day — Sunday May 14, to be exact, so tattoo it someplace if you have a mother.
However cavalier you may think your mother is, she wants to be appreciated. Period. For those who do not or not yet or never will bear the moniker of Mom, Mama, Mommy, or Mother, chances are you had one. Somebody’s body morphed out of shape, endured leg cramps, uncomfortable sleepless nights, sore … well, lots of sore spots, before thrusting you on the scene.
If you had a mother who was absent, addicted, abusive, or indifferent, poor her to have missed out on fabulous you. For those who had mothers who were saints, practically perfect, and totally amazing in every way every day, lucky you. Most mothers are neither.
Most are women who cherished their infants, kept their young safe, enjoyed the sweet spot when children adore their mommies, endured and modified much of the rest, occasionally lost her temper or got mommy fatigue, all while juggling the stresses of life.
This is no day for Dad to enjoy the weather on the links with a shrug and a, “She’s not my mother, she’s the kids’.” Nope. She’s the mother of your children who needs to be recognized as special. Role model that, Dad.
Most mothers tend, heal, nourish, teach, discipline (maybe not as much today, ahem), pray, applaud, work, and play with their progeny. And drive. There are endless amounts of that. This person may not even be the biologic parent, but a combination of motherly persons. Appreciate them all.
However, if you had a mother who drove you to myriad practices, lessons, sporting events, stores, appointments, and then taught you how to drive yourself, give thanks. If you were lucky you had the same lady listen to you babble and coo, then sing little songs and share stories, and who finally survived your teenage snark, be grateful.
She cared about your diaper rash, your appetite, your birthday, your reading skills, your infections and rejections, your friends and activities, and your overall happiness. She cleaned up your vomit, your room, your language, and your resumé.
She sacrificed the chicken breast for the wing, the money for her wardrobe for yours, her time, and some of her goals and dreams so that you might pursue yours. She probably celebrated your first steps, your first tooth, your first grade, your first romance, your graduations, your weddings, and your jobs, and in some cases maybe even your sobriety.
In 1988, I wrote a piece on considering whether or not I was past childbearing age and decided to test the waters by keeping my 4-month-old goddaughter for a spell.
“I spent a lot of time wiping … runny nose, sticky fingers, drooling chin, muddy bottom,” I wrote. “The paradox of the sheer drudgery and the sheer absorption that is the job of caring for the very young is a profound mystery.”
Memories of shoveling sticky pink medicine down a gagging little mouth, or searching for a favorite pacifier by flashlight in the dark of night came flooding back. After only a weekend of middle-of-the-night feedings with a colicky baby, I knew my time had passed.
Of course, it resurfaces as a grandmother. On that experience I wrote in my recent book, “There are places in our lives that often become sacred spaces, where there is the overwhelming feeling of something holy … newborn nurseries are like that.”
The nuzzling of the down of a newborn infant, inhaling that fragrance is magical. When the long days and nights of ear infections and colic inevitably appear, I can only reminisce that there are periods of mothering that drag and seem endless, but then the years fly by.
Funny thing time. Without the need to juggle as much or the anxiety about how a child will turn out, grandmothers are free to just love and savor.
And for those whose elderly mothers are now extraneous and becoming burdensome – just remember, once you were a burden to them. So this May do for your mother exactly what you yearned for most as a young child. Spend time together. If that’s not feasible, make sure that a card or flowers or phone call finds its mark. She thought you were worth it all.
Len Bourland is the author of “Normal’s Just a Cycle on a Washing Machine” and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org