I tucked her in, the covers up under her little chin, her increasingly curly hair sprawled on the pillow. Kissing her forehead I whispered over her, “sweet dreams, my lovely, I love you”. Our nightly ritual. The smoothing of her blankets, her hair, the smoothing out of a days worth of verbal sparring and litany of no’s.
As I sat down with my tea later that night, I thought of my mother. My mother. She flitters around the edges of my life, my motherhood, an ephemeral shadow of what could be. The woman who once tucked me in and kissed me goodnight, but whose face remains elusive in my memory. The woman who nourished me for years, whom I know only from photos.
As I sat trying to conjure memories of how I was cared for by my mom, a wave of sadness washed over me, realizing that there’s no one in the world who will call me just to say goodnight. Who will text a random “wish you were here”. My kids will never get to face time with their mommy’s mommy, to hear my childhood stories from the mouth of the woman who witnessed them all.
I’ve always hated Mother’s Day. No matter what event was planned, how many “moms” attended those events with me, the day stood as a reminder of all that had been lost. Now that I am a mom, I wouldn’t describe my feelings as hatred so much as ambivalence. I should like Mothers day. I should be in heaven over the Mother’s Day teas at preschool and the handmade gifts full of fake flowers and overflowing with love. And I do. I love to receive my children’s love, feel a tiny hand in mine.
I’ve been motherless for decades longer than I have been a mom, and I hold in tension these parts of who I am, a delicate dance of joy and grief. I am not alone.
The Mother’s Day refugees. Women who may or may not be mothers themselves but for whom this day is anything but a Hallmark moment.
The woman whose mother is alive but absent, missing by choice. Perhaps trapped by the snare of substance abuse, mental illness, or plain old brokenness.
The women like my grandmother, who have outlived their child. Who live the topsy-turvy, down the rabbit-hole truth of watching your baby’s lifeless body be lowered into the ground. The sharp knife of a short life.
The women who are undergoing surgeries, costly medications and invasive doctor visits in the hopes of one day being called the biggest little word there is: mom.
This one is for all of you. For us.