Many Mothers. No Mom (#131)

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The Aisle of Pain

It was the year after Andy and I got married. It was the week before the United States would indulge in an orgy of brunches and flower arrangements.

Mother’s Day was coming at me. Much like a Mack truck. Of manure.

And misery.

My mother died when I was a teenager.

Every year I listen to friends and coworkers arranging bouquets and brunches.

Then I listen to them bitching about those brunches.

Every year I brace myself, and every year the comments still hit me like bricks.

“I can’t believe my mom is insisting on the House of Blues brunch AGAIN. So tacky.”

Brick to shin. If I could sit across the table from my mom again, I wouldn’t care if it was in a soup kitchen.

“It’s a hundred bucks for roses? Are they fucking gold-plated?”

Brick to the face. No florist deliveries in heaven, dude. Not at any price. Especially not for us atheists.

“God, it’s like a whole Sunday WASTED!”

Brick to the gut. I can’t breathe. If I could breathe, I’d tell that last asshole in Development that the definition of wasted was his last weekend in Vegas. Also, I would hit him with a brick.

Mind you, getting hit with all these bricks is minor compared the emotional evisceration that occurred the first few years after Mom died. The bricks hurt less every year. But they still hurt.

At least Mother’s Day is on a Sunday. I don’t have to wistfully watch flowers arrive for all the moms with thoughtful kids…or possibly thoughtful husbands…or maybe just husbands with excellent assistants.

It’s not just bricks that suck. Even though my mother is gone, I still have Ex-stepmothers, a Current Stepmother, and even my Ex-Stepfather’s Current Wife.

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This year’s pile o’ Mother’s Day cards.

I send all these Pseudo-Moms cards.

I know, it seems like I have masochistic tendencies. Why else would the motherless child brave Hallmark?

But trust me, if there’s one thing I’ve learned from years of dealing with the Pseudo-Moms, it’s that it’s better to be overly inclusive. One skipped hug, one forgotten birthday, or one unsaved spot at a table has a tendency to explode at the next family gathering, which could be one’s own wedding.

Or funeral.

So it’s cards for everyone. And that particular year, I had a new one to buy. Because I had a new Pseudo-Mom.

Sunny, my Chinese-American mother-in-law.

Seriously, you didn’t think Andy would remember a card, do you? Most American holidays aren’t big in Andy’s first generation family. His mother is more likely to return gifts and complain about Andy wasting his money than say thank you. But you can’t return a card and I was buying a bunch anyway. I picked out the most expensive card I could find – because, hahahaha, YOU CAN’T CONTROL ME — and added it to my collection. Sunny’s ornate card required TWO whole stamps.

Suck on that, Sunny. I snuck in a card and postage worth a whole ten dollars. Nyah-nyah.

Does that sound resentful and petty? Yeah. That’s how I felt, that Monday and every Monday before Mother’s Day, scowling my way to the post office and mailing out all those cards to all my Not-Mothers.

And it’s not that many of those women – ExStepmother #1, especially – aren’t nice people. They deserve to be remembered and celebrated.

But they are not MY mom. They have their own children. As kind as some of them have been to me, the children that they bore and raised have first claim on their hearts. These women drop everything and rush to their children’s side for illnesses. An M1A1 tank couldn’t keep them away from their grandchild’s delivery room. Which is as it should be.

I didn’t exactly have a mom like that. Even when she was alive. There were too many of us, and we slipped through the cracks. Injuries and illnesses went unnoticed; Future Judgmental Genius Doctor Sister rode a bike to the pediatrician to get diagnosed with mono. Then biked herself home. In DC. In the SUMMER. And that’s just one example.

I like to think that my mother would have gotten her act together once she quit having babies. Maybe Mom would have been there for Judgmental Genius Doctor Sister’s difficult pregnancy. Maybe Mom would have held my sister’s hand for the excruciating birth of First Niece. Or maybe Judgmental Genius Doctor Sister would have banned Mom from the hospital.

We’ll never know. Mom never got a shot at redemption.

[Author’s Note: shout out to all my peeps with Toxic Mothers who never did/ never will achieve redemption. This is not a post designed to make you sniffle and say, “Damn, maybe I should give my mom another chance…” PUT THE PHONE DOWN. I fully support those of you who block calls — or hunker down in bunkers — to avoid That Woman. You do whatever it takes and apologize to NO ONE.]

Anyway, I sent off all the cards, contributed to the yearly group present for Ex-Stepmother #1, and reminded Andy to send his mother flowers.

I spent the rest of the week in my bitter cocoon, assiduously avoiding live TV. Yes, it was May Sweeps, when all the season finales aired, but I was just not up for sobbing over fucking Folger’s Coffee.

Sunday morning, as usual, Andy slept in while I took our recently adopted rescue dog for several miles. Woofie never met a dog he didn’t like, and we made some new friends. While he cavorted with a Labrador, the Lab’s owner wished me a, “Happy Mother’s Day.”

“Oh, I don’t have kids,” I assured her hastily.

She looked at me like I was nuts and pointed to Woofie. “Yeah, you do. That’s your fur baby, right there.”

I didn’t necessarily agree, but I wasn’t going to argue with a Dog Person. So I merely smiled and said I doubted any child needed to be bathed as often as Woofie. Then I dragged him out of the road kill he’d just rolled in, and we continued.

Four more Dog Persons wished me a Happy Mother’s Day before we got home.

For a woman who had spent her life using multiple forms of birth control and equating pregnancy with death, these kind wishes were unnerving. I smiled, waved, and walked a little faster.

Andy usually slept until 9 on the weekend. So I was surprised to hear pans clanking and smell bacon sizzling as we approached the house. As soon as I had Woofie unleashed on the back patio, Andy opened the door. “Come, Woofie!”

“Wait! No! He’s filthy, he rolled–”

Too late. Spurred on by the scent of bacon, Woofie galloped into the house.

“You can wash him later, then!” I yelled. “And the carpet, too!”

There was no answer. I fumed as I took off my shoes. I fumed as I stomped into the house.

My fuming was interrupted as Woofie charged at me from the kitchen.

He wore a gift bag with a card around his neck.

“For Mommy” was written on the gift bag.

Inside the bag was an oversized sun visor and a card. The card read, “Thank you for all our walks. Wear this and don’t get cancer.” The card was signed with a heart and the outline of a giant paw.

Through unexpected tears, I saw Andy place carefully arranged plates of eggs benedict on the dining room table – my favorite breakfast. Above my place mat was the unmistakable outline of the pastel “Mother’s Day” tin from See’s Candy. (A gift from the cats, I discovered later.)

Heedless of eau d’ road kill, I hugged my fur baby.

Then I went and hugged my husband.

I don’t know if Dog Mom counts. I don’t know if Cat Mom counts.

And I don’t care.

It was my best Mother’s Day in decades.FullSizeRender

Published by

Autumn Ashbough

WF writing about the humorous perils of life with Chinese-American significant other.

24 thoughts on “Many Mothers. No Mom (#131)”

  1. Hmm, now you make me wonder if I’ll get a present from the MC tomorrow morning. Somehow, I think not.

    Anyway I love this story and I’m sorry about your mom. You just made me appreciate mine even more 🙂

    1. I think MC will probably just give Ray lots of extra attention. Cuz that’s how cats roll.

      Thanks for the nice comment and I am glad you have your supportive mom! I always love hearing about awesome moms. Like I said, they deserve ALL THE LOVE.

      And brunches.

  2. This made my eyes drippy. I never had children and in my sixth decade you can bet my eggs are dead (damn! I knew there was something on my list I forgot.) Each year someone wishes me a happy Mother’s Day. I’ve given up ‘splainin’. My cats (or any facsimile thereof) have never given me a gift. I’ve got a great husband but he doesn’t think cat mom counts even though I’m as neurotic about them as a woman is about a human child. So happy dog Mom Day Autumn!

    1. I’m so glad I made you cry? 😉

      And you are an AMAZING Cat Mom, Kate. May you be showered with purrs and may everyone poop inside the box for you today. Hazel, Molly, and Morgan have no idea how good they’ve got it.

  3. Awe!! Tears!! Sorry you had so little time with your mom!!
    Kudos to Andy who REALLY stepped up, and delivered the Mother’s Day you deserved, and needed. Now that’s love. xo

  4. I’m with Kate, you had my eyes dripping too. Ok the truth is you had me ugly crying. Because my dad died when I was 9. So Father’s Day sucks, despite the fact that it’s been 42 years now; despite having a stepfather all those years. And I’m a mess at weddings when dad walks bride down the aisle, and usually have to escape to the restroom during father-daughter dance. So I get it.

    Childfree by choice. I have fur babies and they call me mommy but they know they’re adopted. My hubby and I don’t exchange cards for any occasion although I’ve hinted that I’d like a Mother’s Day card.

    I love your Andy now. Done deal. And of course I love you. ❤️❤️

    1. Aw, thank you! And, yeah, I hear you on Father’s Day. As great as stepparents are, it’s just not quite the same. You are a very good sport for enduring the aisle and the dances at weddings — that’s a serious minefield, right there.

      Good job on the adopted fur babies and being smart enough not to cave into baby pressure. 🙂

  5. Awwwwww. Best husband and dog ever! xxoo

    Yeah, I know. My father died when I was a child and I feel like I have had many years to ignore Father’s Day or when I was in Hawaii go to the cemetery to visit him. As a result, I cannot imagine losing my mom. It pissses me off that my brother and his family treat her as if she’s going to live forever. Hopefully they never see this comment, but man, one day, I swear if things don’t change I might explode. I hear ya, Autumn.

    ps I’ve started watching Sense and Sensibility (the movie). Yes, yes, I know I just watched the mini-series…I think your last blog post might have spurred a British romance binge. You know, gotta have one every once in a while 😉

    1. Oh, anytime I am super sick and stupid, those Jane Austen films/ mini-series are my go to shows. Pretty costumes. Great dialogue. Romance. Plus you can have tea and Ahhhh.

      I know what you mean about your brother. There are children who have amazing moms and they take them for granted, loading them up with childcare, borrowing money, and basically treating them like unpaid help. So frustrating. I wouldn’t blame you for exploding. Maybe it will serve as a wake-up call for your brother.

      And yet…it’s up to these moms to set the boundary. They have to be the ones to say “no.” Which is really hard because they love their kids and want to make their lives easier, and the enabler dynamic is already established. 🙁

      But still, just because you CAN take advantage of someone’s love and giving spirit, it doesn’t mean you should. Grrrr.

  6. I’m with the others and couldn’t help but get a little sappy at this post. Andy and your dog make a great team, and they certainly know how to love you. It sounded like you didn’t see it coming at all. Dog mom certainly counts, why not.

    Like Andy’s mum, my mum is not big on celebrating Mother’s Day. Maybe it’s a Chinese thing. Today I texted my mum wishing her well, and she texted back immediately to remind me to buy groceries.

  7. I always forget that all/most of the other countries celebrate Mother’s day on May 8. >.< So happy Mother's Day from me to you today~! (Your blog is also wishing you a joyful day, I'm sure. :P)

    Funny enough, I was talking to my mother the other day about you and your funny adventures (she laughed a lot, hehe) and she did ask me if you got any children. I said "no, from what I know." and then I told her about Woofie and Bat Cat.

    Andy deserves a standing ovation. Thumbs up for him! I hope he prepared a surprise for you this year too! 😀

  8. Autumn! This post had me very teary eyed. People don’t appreciate their mothers enough, even on Mother’s Day, and they don’t know how good it is to have her until she’s gone… My mom is perfectly healthy, but my dad became really ill a few years ago (luckily he’s better now) and since then I realized I have to cherish my father (and mother), so I go out of my way to see my parents and show them I care, even though it is a hassle. I have some American friends that only lived 2 hours away from their parents, but saw them less than I saw mine! (and this was when I lived abroad!). Crazy.

    Andy sounds like a really, really good catch. He knows just what to do! I’m kind of jealous actually… I also want to be a mom (for a pet only!) but Richard won’t let me get a dog or cat. I’m trying really hard to convince him that cats are easy, so I’m crossing my fingers that maybe in a few years I’ll be a cat-mom too…!!

    1. Oh, yay, another crier! 😉

      I’m glad you made the time to show your parents your love and appreciation. A lot of us think we’ll have plenty of chances…until we don’t.

      Cats are easy, actually. VERY, very easy. It’s nice if you get two of them, and then they can maul each other instead of the furniture. If you leave for a few days it’s no big deal and they don’t get lonely during their 6 hours awake.

  9. My dad died when I was a teenager and currently I live quite far away from my mum and stepdad (I really relate to the way you put it – my stepdad has been a wonderful father to me – better than my dad in many ways – but he’s not ‘dad’).

    Like you, I hate hearing people complain about having to spend time with their parents – I would love to spend a day with my dad. I’d love to spend more time with my mum and stepdad – I try to see them as often as I can even though they are 500km away.

    I love the card!! “Wear this and don’t get cancer”!

    1. Thanks, Cat!

      Yeah, I understand that some parents are toxic and some are interfering, and some are just overwhelming, but it’s definitely hard to hear some of the complaints.

      1. Yes, I am totally not including the toxic parents in this – I mean all those people with genuinely good parents who complain about their genuinely good parents wanting to spend time with them.

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