Another Mother’s Day has come and gone. Some forty years ago, it lost any consideration as one of my favorite holidays. It’s hard to be upbeat and celebratory as a young wife, unable to become a mother. For years, Mother’s Day was a horrible day, an ugly reminder of fate’s roll of the dice. We watched as some got pregnant exactly when they’d planned and as other people had children they didn’t particularly want. People close to us quit talking about their own pregnancies, afraid to upset us — not realizing that their secrecy hurt us more than their success ever could. Meanwhile our loving home remained childless.
Years later, we became parents by adoption, which was always part of our family plan. The addition of our six-year-old bundle of energy changed everything. Like stepping on a moving treadmill, we became a family and Mother’s Day wasn’t so bad.
We went along for a while, the hand-crafted cards and foam coffee cup flower pots coming home from school and marking Mother’s Day as they did for any other family. We juggled gifts and cards for the grandmas, visits to whoever we could see, and calls to those we couldn’t.
After about seven years of being parents, our then-teenage son reconnected with his birth mother. I’ll admit to a period of jealous insecurity…. but I also realize that it was never necessary. As a family, we incorporated another mother and another grandmother into the Mother’s Day mix, and life went on that way for a few more years.
At the same time, things were not the best with my own mother. It was a time of misunderstandings and poor communication. It was hard to find a Mother’s Day card I could send with sincerity — not too mushy, not too distant, not too religious. Mother’s Day celebrations were sliding fast.
Then, a number of years ago, my mother-in-law had an accident and ended up in assisted living. She ultimately died on Mother’s Day. Even though the date changes, in our hearts and minds, it will always be that she died on Mother’s Day. Another mark against a happy, candy-and-flowers kind of holiday.
This year, though… this year took the prize and re-set the bar. Still reeling from my mother’s death in February, and with limited means to cope and grieve or have any sort of closure during a pandemic, Mother’s Day rolled around again. My husband always seems to know what to do: a quiet, breathable, day of keeping pressure away from me works real well.
I felt a little put out that (social distancing notwithstanding) I didn’t hear from our son on that day…. but y’know what? His plate is pretty full as well. He’s grieving my mom, too, the grandma who stood by him like few others when his life got real hard. I know he thinks about his birth mother on Mother’s Day, too. He wonders why she doesn’t stay connected, wonders about the birth grandmother who raised him for a couple of years. Mother’s Day is as hard for him as it is for me. I don’t need him to call me on that one day per year to tell me he loves me. I know it every waking minute.
So henceforth, Mother’s Day is forever changed at our house. This was the first of all my remaining Mother’s Days, when my mom is gone. It’s the first of all future Mother’s Days where I hold a deeper understanding for our son and his journey among the many mother figures that have passed through his life.
It is due time, in this otherwise bizarre year of 2020, to release and relieve the pressures that have been so deeply ingrained in the expectations of Mother’s Day. That applies to me personally, and for our little family, and hopefully in comfort to some of you out there in the world. Welcome to a deep breath, to a re-set, and to a new beginning.
Stay close, whoever your “people” are. Stay safe.
(c) 2020, J. Cools