Mothers: Deserving of so much more than one day...

Mom and I, circa 1974, makin' funny faces at each other.

I woke up this morning to my first Mother’s Day feeling pretty awful. Not because my husband and son aren’t recognizing the day as special. They are, big-time.

I feel awful because the card I bought for my own mother last weekend is still sitting on my kitchen counter, unsigned and unsent. I don’t know if it’s a character flaw or mental block or some deep-seated emotional hangup I have that keeps me from sending cards to loved ones on time, if at all. It’s embarrassing, the collection of brand-new, unsigned cards I have for every occasion, hidden in desk drawers and dresser drawers and amid stacks of bills around the house. Birthdays, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, anniversaries, sympathy cards, “missing you” cards. I think of friends and family, buy cards for them, and never send them. I don’t know why. Maybe subconsciously I am most comfortable wallowing in the guilt and shame it brings out, this not-sending-the-cards thing, always wondering whether those I love know I love them, and remember them, and miss them.

Anyway. This post is not supposed to be about my character flaws. It’s supposed to be about my mother, and how I’ve never felt closer to her than I have this past year.

It’s amazing to see your mom in a different light than you had before, a phenomenon that happens a few times over the course of one’s life. It happened for me that time she came to visit me at college and asked to come to the party my friends and I were headed to one Saturday night. I was taken aback by that request but obliged her curiosity. She didn’t stay long, and was welcomed with open, drunken arms by my pals, who tried to teach her whatever drinking game they were playing and offered her some beer from the secret keg in the back bedroom with the slightly better beer than the one out on the balcony for public consumption. (I’m sure she declined.)

She wasn’t there to check up on me, or try to live vicariously through me (okay, well, maybe just a tiny bit). She was there because she wanted to peek through a window in my life, a life that was now being led seven hours from hers. Something about the way she interacted with my friends that night made me think of her as a person, not a mom, which is weird considering the venue. You would have thought her presence there would have screamed MOM, not the opposite. She was just cool, joking with people and talking about the football game we’d all been to that day. I remember being so proud to have her there with me. I loved her that night for not making me feel like a kid there with her mom. I felt like an adult, introducing an old friend to a bunch of new ones.

She probably doesn’t know how much I still think about that night.

My view of her shifted again this past year, as I lived my every moment as a mother and finally felt the echoes of her actions as a mom to my newborn self, 35 years ago. Over the years I’ve thanked her again and again for all the support she’s given me in life, for all the chorus and band recitals she sat through, for the birthdays and holidays she made special, for pushing me to be my best, for allowing me to do more and be more and experience more than she was allowed to do and be and experience as a kid.

But until this past year, I never knew enough to thank her for the less noticeable “mom” stuff, the stuff I don’t remember or couldn’t understand until I experienced it firsthand.

So thank you, Mom, for enduring the anxiety and discomfort of pregnancy, and the pain and uncertainty and exhilaration and terror of labor, to bring me into the world. Thank you for all the nights you got up from your bed to come to mine and soothe me back to sleep. Thank you for the million tiny prayers you sent up on my behalf, every day, even now, whenever you read or saw something about a child being sick or lost or hurt or, God forbid, killed. Thank you for all the times you surrendered yourself into fits of silliness, making funny faces and blowing raspberries on my tummy and dancing around the living room to make me giggle.

Thank you for wondering “Is this right? Am I doing okay?” about a thousand times in quiet moments right before you fell asleep at night. Thank you for overcoming your frustrations when I was clingy or whiny or overtired or sick to keep caring for me with tenderness even when you felt like your mother’s deep well of tenderness had surely run dry. Thanks for putting up with every diaper change I squirmed through, every bit of food I threw at you, and every time I spit up on a clean shirt you’d just put on.

Thank you for giving up your free time, surrendering your privacy, and setting aside some of the dreams you had as a person to make room for all the new dreams you carried as a mother. Thank you for all the warm baths and bottles, all the practicing you did with me to say “Dada” and “Mama” and “milk.” Thank you for holding onto my chubby fingers and helping me take my first steps. Thank you for all the hugs and kisses and smiles you showered me with in that first year, and know that those tiny acts of love created the foundation of love and independence and happiness on which I built my life.

Mom, I always appreciated you as a mother but I couldn’t fully understand who you are — who you’ve been — to me until now. Now I get it. Now I realize that all those years when you hinted and asked and practically begged me to tell you whether I was ever going to “start a family,” it wasn’t because you merely wanted to be a grandma. It was because you desperately, secretly wished for me to experience the same blessings of being a mom that you’ve experienced.

There is no card on the shelves at Hallmark that conveys all of this and more. Perhaps that’s why I never sent the card I bought. Still, I’ll give it to you when I see you in a few weeks, along with the gift sitting beside it that was too heavy and breakable to send through the mail.

I’ve learned this past year that parenthood sucks up your time and money and patience, but in their place it leaves this warmth and richness that is quite indescribable until you feel it yourself, from the bottom of your heart to the top of your soul. I hope when I was a baby, and a child, and perhaps even now, I added some of that warmth and richness to your heart, Mom. It’s the least I could do, for all you gave to me.

Happy Mother’s Day; I love you.


Kim said...

I remember when Mom Rydzy came out partying with us too! That was a special night for us, too.

You're right. It's impossible to fully appreciate your Mom until you've experienced motherhood for yourself.

By the way... I have that same stash of greeting cards. Every time I tell Lance I need to go buy one, he raises an eyebrow. But it's true. No matter how big the collection grows, I never seem to have one appropriate for that occasion!

Happy First Mother's Day!!

Tara said...

Wow, Robyn. This is beautiful and eloquent. I hope you print it out and send it to your mom. (I think I've said that before about other posts, too!) :)

Robyn said...

I actually read it to her over the phone. It was harder to do, without crying, than I thought it would be! :)

wildhorse said...

Robyn-I can no longer read your posts at work. I am sitting here bawling. Eyes all red, tears, snotty nose, The works. That was wonderful.