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.
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.
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.
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.