Sunday, May 12, 2013

Variations on Mother's Day

Lay on the floor like a pile of laundry and weep deeply. Run through the park like a Borg squadron chases you. Rip through speed bag drills like you're in a Hanes commercial. Let your therapist guide you through a coffee table timeline of your anguish. Sit sukhasana in the sand and watch the sun rise. Or drink tea over scones with your mother. Today can be Hallmark or Jackson Pollock. Whatever gets you through.

Some of us have mothers. For some of us, this is grand. We love them. They nurtured us. Or at least they did their best. We can look back over years of "mommy" with adoration and peace.

Others of us, not so much. Mom is something more akin to a hagmonster from the tidepools of Sheol reaching out from the black ravines of our memory to pull us forehead-first into the abyss, where we'd cry forever over why we've never been loved. Or she's a voluminous blob like an uncanny Miyazaki thing that absorbs all our air and space, eating every part of our life until we're left with only one little corner like Daffy being erased by sociopathic Bugs. We shriek and wail. We wave our helpless little cartoon arms. But mom's hag claws or unseeing, googly eyes just stump closer, absorbing all our mental autonomy until we black out in terror.

Still for others of us, mom is a bittersweet memory. Something unresolved. A piece from our past we've not found safe room for in the future. We don't look back in hate (anymore), but we don't look forward in hope (not yet). We're ambivalent. We're unsure. We feel love. But more than that we feel the need to stay safe from loved people who don't always act healthily. Mother's Day feels sort of like waiting in the airport. You don't know when your next flight leaves, nor from which gate. You just sort of hang out and wait for some sonorous, squawky voice from above to instruct your next move. And you're okay if the day passes without direction, because you snagged the leather chair in the Starbucks lounge anyway and have an iPad full of Iron Chef. Mother's Day passes like a leaf on the wind. You notice it. You find it lovely. But you're okay with it landing and fading into the earth out of sight.

And still others of us have lost our mothers forever. Mother's Day is a reminder of unresolved loss and grief. We weep like baritones in the privacy of our lungs, but we hold the buffets in gaspingly because we don't want to tarnish her day. Or we caress creased photos and spend time crying softly in her chair. Or we lay on the bed cuddling the quilt she made us when we were nine, hoping what we smell on it is her. We feel alone, and sorrowful. And yet when we reach out to heaven we know she is there, and so feel not alone anymore.

And some of us feel an odd, achy mix of all of this. One moment we lean into the hagmonster's pit, next we cry for mommy under the sheets, and then we run on the beach at peace because we're free.

And at the end of the day we're stronger, because of her, or in spite of her. Or both. Because we've grown to a place where we are our own mothers, and fathers. We're learning to care for ourselves in the best ways our mothers did, or never could. And we're grateful.

"Mother and Child," Jeff Fessenden


  1. What a beautiful picture. Of something we can never have.

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