Sunday Morning ~ Mother’s Day
May 12, 2019
Mwana wa ng’ombe upeza akudya udzu anaonera make kudya udzu. ~ You find a calf eating grass because it has seen it’s mother eating grass.
~ Chewa proverb
All we learn from our mothers: eating grass, stroking kittens, knitting sweaters, making fudge on Sunday afternoons, going to college, voting, cherishing girlfriends, sewing Barbie clothes, and on and on. I miss my mother often, as many of us do. When she was dying, my siblings and I sat around her bed, holding her hand, talking to her, wetting her lips, turning her, and waiting. I’d taken boxes of papers from her apartment and when my mother slept we went through them. We found old Mother’s Day cards we’d made. We laughed at our spelling and primitive artwork and the bizarre messages we chose. She’d purged most of her belongings before she became infirm and the boxes were few; we didn’t have an abundance to sort. But the Mother’s Day cards from us were there, which meant something. I found one I’d made when I was twelve. I hadn’t had money to buy her a gift so made her a list of ten promises. They were for things she complained about, like leaving my shoes under the stool in the kitchen or only using my towel once before throwing it in the wash. I numbered each of them and wrote them out in my loopy curly cursive. 1. I promise to use my towel twice before throwing it in the wash. 2. I promise to chew my food more slowly. 3. I promise to clean the bathroom without being told. Up to… 10. I promise to love you forever. I looked at the card and though, “Well, that was kinda sweet. Wouldn’t have minded getting one of these myself.” but I don’t remember her making a fuss about the card. She didn’t make fusses. But there it was and that was fuss enough. She’d kept it. I remember bringing her breakfast in bed on Mother’s Day. I have no idea what we made, probably cold coffee and some horrible dried out toast and eggs or something. She acted happy and surprised and we busted with pride. She didn’t have it easy. She was very strong, though, I didn’t recognize it then. I saw her cry exactly two times in my life, once when I was three and my brother cut off all my hair (I remember that vividly), and once when my oldest brother left for Vietnam. (Guess that says something about my golden curls) She may have cried other times but these were the only ones I saw. I definitely did not learn to refrain from crying from my mother. I cry a lot. I used to cry reading Winnie the Pooh books to the kids. I’d sob uncontrollably when reading the book Love You Forever. The first time I was unable to get through it, Zack (age five) asked, “Are you crying because no one ever gave you a book before?” which made me laugh, and ever after I had to think of that line to be able to finish reading the book with a huge lump in my throat.
My kids don’t make a lot of Mother’s Day. It used to bother me (well, ok, it still might) but their logic makes sense. It’s a Hallmark holiday and apparently they boycott the commercialism. I can go along with that (as if I have a choice). As I read about the history of the day I learned that even the woman who lobbied to have the second Sunday of May recognized as Mother’s Day (Anna Jarvis) after a while boycotted it because it became so commercialized. I get it.
Twenty years ago I was at a funeral service for a local boy who was murdered. It was a shocking horror, he was shot at point blank range, a talented and much loved young man. It was December and the church was filled with white poinsettias. It was snowing outside. The church was heaving with mourners, white poinsettias, and sorrow. I will never forget the look on his mother’s face as she walked out of the church: the picture of grief. Her expression has been branded on my heart ever since.
During the service his brother read a letter written by the boy, sent to his mother the year before he died. I think it was an actual letter, written on paper and sent by post, but I could be making that up because I like that idea. It may have been before email was even possible. It was a beautiful letter from her son and I’m picturing her reading it after collecting the mail that day, maybe in a sunlit kitchen where the boy used to do his homework when he was in school. I imagine how her heart must have swelled with love and pride, smiling as she read his words. Then it was being read at his funeral. He wrote something about Mother’s Day and not remembering if it was this week or last week. A rumble of chuckles rolled through the church. He went on to say that Mother’s Day should, it seemed to him, be like Earth Day, something we should celebrate every day, not just once a year. I was standing at the back, as the pews were overflowing by the time I’d arrived, crying along with most others there. There were many other beautiful and wise sentiments expressed in that letter that showed what a wonderful human being he was, but what has stuck with me, and I think of it every year, was that he forgot which day was Mother’s Day because it really didn’t matter. We should honor mothers every day. I love that.
Happy Mother’s Day all you wonderful, hard working, loving mothers.
Love to all,