I come from a long line of flower loving mothers and grandmothers. Both of my grandmothers had the southern ‘green thumb’. They could make anything grow and flourish. They could ‘root’ cuttings for us to take home and plant in our own gardens. And we were never allowed to say the words ‘thank you’. That was tantamount to killing it before it was ever planted in the ground.
Another superstition I suppose.
And of course, flowers are flourishing at this time of year. Roses, foxgloves, peonies, flowering shrubs. They are floral reminders of earth’s abundance.
They were also symbles of our mothers. A red rose worn to church on Mother’s Day meant your mother was still with you. A white one meant she was deceased. We’ve gotten away from that over the past few years, but I remember the arduous ways my own mother protected her flowering rose bushes so that we would all have the appropriate color for that day. A little baby’s breath might be tucked underneath it. The scent of roses wafting from the pews mixed with the Estee Lauder Youth Dew fragrance from the women and the English Leather cologne on the men.
After the service, we would all climb in the boat-sized Cadillac with the scratchy seat coverings and take hanging baskets or potted plants to our grandmother’s houses. Often we took covered dishes and had lunch with first one and then the other of them. We would still be in our ‘church clothes’ and expected not to mess them up. Hard to do when you are a child.
And my own experience as a mom on Mother’s Day is filled with the most abundant recollections of crayon drawing cards, hand painted pottery, chubby fists of violets, breakfast in bed, reminders the week or two before that I should be extra nice because ‘remember what Sunday is’!
My husband is also extra thoughtful on Mother’s Day. He has never failed to make me feel special on Mother’s Day.
But having said all of that, I am thinking about the ones of us who will not be celebrating this holiday. I have recently been reminded that not everyone has a gallery of fond memories on display in their minds of past Mother’s Day experiences. Maybe they had a mother who drank too much or used drugs or simply wasn’t there. Maybe they couldn’t please their mother or was abused in some way – mentally or physically. We forget about these people sometimes when we shower those we meet along the street with cheerful ‘Happy Mother’s Day’ greetings.
One lady I know says this just reminds her of the fact that she isn’t a mother and probably never will be. Adoption? Not always an option.
A radio show that I sometimes listen to had people call in with what they wanted for Mother’s Day. They asked that the answers be unique, since we all love the handmade cards and misshapen pottery. I don’t think they expected what they then received.
The callers wanted to be left alone.
They didn’t want to have to smile sweetly and show up for cafeteria lines with mothers and mother-in-laws who made them feel ‘less than’ most of the time. They didn’t want to hear strangers bestowing ‘Happy Mother’s Day’ greetings to them when they had tried and tried and failed to become mothers. They didn’t want to face another weekend of commercials on television reminding them to show appreciation to their mothers when they hadn’t seen them in years, or pleased them in decades. Some wanted to forget that their dear mothers had died young and left them so bereaved that it was horrific to get through.
It was hard to listen to, but probably necessary for all of us. Holidays can be painful reminders of a gaping wound, and what could ever be worse than the hole left where a mother should be or should have been.
And sometimes the best mothers aren’t the ‘biological’ mothers. Maybe they are school teachers, friends, neighbors, grandmothers, aunts, babysitters, nannies. And sometimes they are fathers. Just as some mothers have been mother and father to their children, so it goes with fathers who have patiently ‘mothered’ their babies.
For the rest of us, the lucky ones, I hope it etches a clear memory that brings a nice smile when you recall it.