Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Thoughts on Mother’s Day

On the second Sunday of May each month we, as a nation, stop and pay homage to the mother or mothers in our life. It’s a great idea and like so many great ideas, it leaves itself wide open for guilt ridden humor and irony. Let me explain.

As I child, I loved Mother’s Day. It was the one Sunday that we didn’t have to have a bible lesson in Sunday School but instead got to work on our homemade Mother’s Day cards. A piece of colored construction paper and a few crayons and poof, we had the perfect gift. These childish efforts brought tears to my mother’s eyes, something I rarely saw unless my brothers had been really really bad.

And then I became the mother… and things changed.

Mother’s Day is the one morning of the year when my children are allowed to run rampant in the kitchen and I have to stay tucked in bed listening to the sound of broken glass and pots being banged together, while that strangely eerie scent of burnt eggs wafts gently in the air.

Just as tradition dictates that the groom is not allowed to see the bride on their wedding day before the ceremony, so I am not allowed out of my room until the traditional ‘breakfast in bed’ sequence is complete. Though, truth be told, it’s probably good for me to get the extra rest, as I will need it when I am finally allowed out of my room and back into the shambles that was once a clean kitchen.

After the hour and a half it takes to clean up breakfast, we usually attend church together as a family. It’s quite an accomplishment to get everyone out of bed, showered and dressed in time to attend services, especially for the one who is determined that God will strike him with a lightening bold if he so much as steps through the doorway. But after many tears and pleading on my part, and guilt trips on the part of their father, I manage to get my whole brood sitting somewhat quietly together on a church pew.

As other mother’s arrive at church one notices immediately that many are sporting brightly colored Mother’s Day corsages. By far the most popular model is the single orchid, boxed and sold by the thousands at most retail outlets the Saturday before Mother’s Day. These are the ones that come with two huge white headed pins, guaranteed to draw blood, and a small vial of water attached to the flower stem.

There is some debate as to what that small vial is for. When removed, the stem seem to go wild, often tangling itself up in the ribbon or just sticking out in some annoying angle. On the other hand, if you leave the vial on, you are guaranteed to find water leaking onto the chest portion of your Mother’s Day outfit. Though this may bring back memories of your first over engorged Mother’s Day, it isn’t really a pretty sight.

Among the myriad of single orchids are some double variety. They cost a little more, but they make you husband feel special when he gives them to you and in effect says, “You my dear are a two orchids wife!”

A few women show up with corsages of flowers other than orchids, the type that you order from a florist in advance. I tried to order myself a corsage of baby roses once and claim that it was a gift from my three year old, but I couldn’t do it. It felt like purchasing your own Christmas gift, then placing it under the tree and saying it was from some made up friend.

In our church, various members of the congregation are invited to stand and share memories of their own mothers. This is by far the most difficult part of the day. Last year, eighty-five year old Roy Mossbrow rambled on for thirty minutes about his sainted mother who passed away nearly forty years before, while all the mothers in the audience, including myself, cringed at his description.

“Never do I recall that woman raising her voice,” Roy drones on. “Or saying a sharp word.”

I look down the row to see all six of my children looking in my direction, eyebrows raised. I shrug. What can I say, I’m an awful mother.

“She was up before the dawn and often wasn’t in bed till midnight.”

I don’t get up that early, but often I watch Letterman till well after twelve a.m. Does that count?

“I am the man I am today because of that sweet angelic woman.”

I swear, if any of my children ever stand up and make all the living mothers feel guilty by embellishing my memory after I’m dead, I will come down and hit them over the head with my halo or pitch fork, depending on where I end up.

As we leave the chapel, the young men hand out carnations with yard long stems and I do my best not to beat myself up with mine. Being a mom is hard work, and the fact that my kids are involved makes it even tougher.

Then my teenage son slips his arm around me and whispers in my ear. “I love you mom.”

I guess having to suffer through one Mother’s Day a year isn’t too bad. I mean I do have pretty great kids. And besides, maybe someday, when they all grow up and move out, I can be perfect just like my mom.

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