My Reintegration Into Mother’s Day
A few weeks ago, a friend said to me on the phone, “The 10th is Mother’s Day, so there’ll be pressure on us to make it special.” My first instinct, which I managed not to act upon, was to laugh joylessly and say, “On you, maybe — my Mom’s been dead since I was ten.” I caught myself as I realized that he was referring to our wives. Our kids’ moms.
I know a lot of people who’ve lost their mothers for whom Mother’s Day is a challenge — my brother, for instance. But though I’ve been wracked and left tear-soaked by every other aspect of motherlessness, I can’t remember the holiday ever bothering me too much. After my own Mom died, there were still a few years of brunches and cards for the surrogate, post-mothers in my life — my grandmothers, my aunt — but as soon as I could, and without thinking too much about it, I broke away from these rites, too. I became a Mothers’ Day agnostic; I was aloof of it, even as the advent of social media made it impossible to ignore.
There was something darkly liberating about my attitude. Every other day of the year, I felt the full weight of being motherless, the blind envious rage that came from watching everyone else take the loving maternal presence in their lives for granted with a clueless, bovine passivity. On Mothers’ Day, though, I’d give myself a break from pining; grant myself the gift of detached superiority. When I was little, I played soccer with a kid who’d been adopted, and the way he’d dealt with being different was to laugh at those of us who lived with our birth parents: “Pfft — you came from your mommies’ tummies,” he’d blurt with no attempt to conceal his knowing contempt, assuming that his adoption had exempted him from even the indignity of gestation. There was something of his attitude in my approach to Mothers’ Day. Let the mothered squares buy candies and make dinner reservations.
Last year was my first Mother’s Day back in the fold — picking up the slack left by our infant daughter to lead the celebration of her incredible mother, my wife Cara — and it’s still not second nature. It remains odd and just a little bit unnatural for me to have someone to honour in the middle of May. But all in all, it’s nice to be back. Broadly speaking, becoming a parent has upended my view of life as a linear process — it seems now, to me, to be much more like a seashell spiral that we start from the inside of. The first loop around, everything is new, but there comes a point where you begin covering the same ground from a little bit further out. I was in kindergarten once; I’ll be there again, in four years, from a different angle. I once ravenously needed parental love and affection; now I get to give it.
Of course, I still need that love just as ravenously, and the hole left by my Mom’s death doesn’t get plugged. But there’s something empowering, too, about having once been quasi-orphaned, and now being able to lavish all the affection my daughter wants and needs. It’s nice to walk back into Mother’s Day as a grown-up. We spiral our grief and our losses, too; we get a bit further away from it, but it’s alway there. The new, good stuff doesn’t push it away; it wraps around it.
Happy Mother’s Day, whether or not you have reservations.