Sunday, May 9, 2010

Trying Mother's Day on for Size

In recent years, I’ve played a little game with myself on Mother’s Day. The name of that game: Pretend It’s Not Happening. This Mother’s Day will be my eighth without my mother, and from the first year, it became a day I started to dread.

Therefore: Pretend it’s not happening, and you won’t have any more reason to feel sad than you do on any other day of the year. Right? Right.

Last year, I worked the brunch shift on Mother’s Day, which made a lot of sense, or so I originally thought. A lot of the other servers wanted to spend time with their mothers, and I also needed some help in my Pretend It’s Not Happening game. Working a busy brunch shift? Perfect diversion.

Not so perfect, as it turns out. Instead I ended up feeling about a million times worse, waiting on table after table of people with (DUH) their moms. We were also supposed to pass out these special chocolate covered strawberries to all the mothers, and by the end of my shift, I was fighting my increasing desire to stomp all over the stupid chocolate covered strawberries.

I missed my mom. I felt overwhelmingly sad. Every time a coworker who didn’t know me too well asked, “Are you going to see your Mom today?”— a completely reasonable question to ask on Mother’s Day—I had a choice. I could simply say no, and walk away, avoiding the subject entirely. Or, I could tell the truth.

I dislike both of those options. Maybe a simple “no” would have saved me some grief, but it just would have felt wrong. I would have felt like a liar. But then again, telling the truth isn’t much fun either. I hate, hate, HATE telling someone new that my mother is not alive. It makes me uncomfortable. It often makes the other person uncomfortable. It makes me sad. It makes the other person sad. It makes me… well, it makes me feel a whole lot of feelings, dammit.

So basically, last year, my little Pretend It’s Not Happening game failed me. By the end of the day, I was a grumpy, emotional mess. Mother’s Day was happening. OH, was it happening. It was all around me, smacking me in the face with chocolate covered strawberries.

I have never hated Mother’s Day as much as I did by the end of that brunch shift last year. Even the first Mother’s Day without my mom, when I curled up in a ball on the couch because it was too painful to do anything else, was in a way, not quite so awful. When your pain and grief is fresh, you can allow yourself to just, well, lie around with it in a way. You’re still trying it on for size. So I could get away with curling up in a ball all day and feeling sad. But each year, it becomes a little less appropriate to deal with it in that manner. A little less necessary, as well—by this point, the sadness is not something you’re just trying it on for size. It’s that old dress hanging in the closet that you never wear, but you just can’t seem to throw out.

So what to do with it, then?

Last night I went out to dinner with my family—a Mother’s Day dinner for my Aunt Linda. My cousin Claire had brought these delicious cupcakes she had made at work, with a special one just for her mom, with “Momma” written in icing. Yeah, it was just a cupcake. But it's still really something, isn't it?

There was no reason to pretend Mother’s Day isn’t happening. There was no reason to be sad. Of course, I still wish I could sit next to my mom at a mother’s day dinner in her honor. I wish I could give her a special mother’s day present.

Well, I can’t. But I have a choice. I can avoid the subject entirely, or I can tell the truth.

Here’s the truth: I can still picture the expression on my mother’s face as she read her mother’s day cards. I can still picture that special, private smile she’d reward each of us with after she read them. Yeah, it's just a memory. But it's still really something. Isn't it.

There’s no reason to pretend.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the wonderful mothers out there!

I was inspired to write about Mother's Day after reading Kelsey Wallace's post at Bitch about celebrating the "women who've helped to make us the kickass feminists we see in the mirror today." That woman, for me, will always be my momma. Happy Mother's Day.


  1. ali you are such a beautiful writer... cant believe it has been 8 years!! love you! xx i just wrote on your fb but i am calling you this week dammit!

  2. I had a very difficult relationship with my mother. When she passed it was not the usual grieving. Complicated and more difficulty. I didn't know where to put my foot, so I avoided it. Completely. Went on about my life...and then as time went by I began to understand she did the best she could...I began to let go and forgive.
    And then I felt her near me once in a very sacred place. I realized she had changed, I realized she loved me, and that she was watching over me. The light that went through my being was slow, but the knowledge settled on me it became comfortable.
    Your mother is near, she is learning, growing, and her love for you is growing all the more.
    Keep writing...