Recently, I was selecting my Mother’s Days cards. Looking for just the right card for a neighbor and another for my cousin, and a mix for my girlfriends. My own mother died 25 years ago. I still remember that first Mother’s Day with out her. The card racks in the local Hallmark store practically brought me to tears, and the holiday brought a level of sadness I had not planned on.
When your own mother is gone you not only miss the intimacy of the bond but the immediacy of that font of support and information. Advice and knowledge on a range of subjects you never realized you would miss that she shared. Sometimes with out you even asking for any of her input at all. Oh yes, a mother’s prerogative. From stain removal to work issues, chicken pox identification to book reviews, my mother always had something to add to the conversation. And when that voice was gone the silence mocked and saddened me. The next year I made a plan. I would send a card to the friends who had helped fill in the blanks, the ones who had “mothered” me.
And so to the friend. who showed up to help me pack my mother’s kitchen when I moved my parents closer to my home I send a card. The packing was work. But the conversation while we marveled that anyone would have that many colanders, was light enough to keep me moving in the face of my mother’s illness. To the friends who called me and held my hand when an adoption plan went south, I send a card. And when that longed for baby finally arrived and friends showed up to hold the baby, take his picture and make a fuss with the same enthusiasm as if I had experienced labor and delivery, I sent a card. The other moms in my playgroup,who helped me navigate roseola and teething, card worthy indeed. Then there was the experienced cousin by marriage who cemented her place in my heart with her steady reassurance during the tumultuous teenage years. She told me that I was capable and loving and that all would be well. Mothering friends helped me navigate the healthcare system when my parents faced their final illness. And mothering friends helped me plan memorial services for another friend when he died. These women took my child to soccer/school/ballet when I was sick and my husband was out of town. They made me soup after surgery, picked up my daughter and cared for her while I was at the emergency room with my son. They even stepped in to visit my mother-in-law when we travelled, to ease our worry when we were far away. And when the time to close up and pack up my parent’s final home came, so did a friend or two to help with the task and hand me tissue for my tears.
Sometimes I hear people say that women treat other women badly. That at work or socially, we undermine and attack. Like the characters shown on one of those “real” television shows, we plot and plan to hurt and demean. That has not been my reality.
This past winter, a week or so before Christmas I was in the parking lot of our local gift/card/toy emporium. The same one where I buy all those Mother’s Days’s cards. On this day, I saw a young mom soldiering toward her car carrying a baby in a carrier,while she tried to shepherd two older boys into her mini-van. The older one, maybe 6 or so was cooperating, but the younger perhaps two or three-year old, was having a good old fashioned melt down. I knew just what had happened; toy department, little boy, two parts fatigue and one part “no toy” disappointment. This almost always equals tears and the dragging of feet as mom tries to get everyone home, something we all remember. I parked my car and walked back to the family. I didn’t want to add to the drama so I asked her quietly, “Can I help you? Would you like me to carry the baby while you get the boys into the car?” By the time she had everyone in and seat belts fastened she and the younger boy were in tears. He had tried to make a run for it but between the two of us he was finally in his car seat. “Thank you so much,” she said between sniffles, “I don’t know what I would have done.” I smiled and told her she would have been fine. “We’ve all been there, you were so patient and calm you’re doing great.” She thanked me again, this time with hug, and we said good-bye.
So this year once again I’m buying Mother’s Days cards. For the women who’ve taken the time to lovingly mother this motherless mother. I couldn’t help thinking about them that day in the parking lot. I think each one of them would have done the same thing I did. Being a mom is hard, but being a mom with the mothering of others helping and supporting us, that makes the experience more rich and meaningful. Thanks, and Happy Mother’s Day, I’m just say’n.