Mother’s Day! Mother’s Day! It’s finally here!
Mother’s Day! Mother’s Day! The worst day of the year.
But, I exaggerate.
And yet, my relationship with the day has been a bit… fraught.
One of the first Mother’s Days I remember is me, in my parents’ small, blue-collar-brick twin, upstairs, leaning against the wall between the bathroom and my parents’ room, holding a macaroni card or some such child-made card, and crying. Next to me was my father, knocking on the door to my parents’ bedroom, holding a box that had, as I remember it, a pearl necklace in it, and asking my mother to be reasonable and come out. Inside their room my mother was crying and yelling, and very very angry.
Well, maybe Dad had cheated on her, again. Maybe he was trying not just to wish her a happy Mother’s Day, but to also get back in her good graces, again. Maybe the pearl necklace was from a guy named Snookie and Dad bought it from Snookie who got it after it had fallen off the back of a truck, and Ma was angry because the thing was most likely stolen. Though Ma wasn’t, in general, too concerned about money-saving deals that were nefarious, I do have a memory of hearing Snookie’s name thrown out at us through the wooden door, but that could be a conflation with another day we stood, and I cried outside that wooden door. Or the necklace could have been a cheap fake, ’cause Snoookie sold those too, and he could always talk my dad into thinking it was more special than it was, and my mom could tell the difference, and it made her feel like trash when he bought her trash.
I remember being small, that day. So, four or younger. I remember leaning into the wall for support, literally unable to hold myself up, and in my left hand, in my fingertips, the card I so desperately did not want to smudge or crinkle. I think I had made it at Sunday school, with great joy and anticipation, and it had all come to naught, and there was naught I could fucking do about it. I remember feeling a great hopelessness wash over me. I remember seeing, for the first time, that a card was a useless thing, really, against the problems we throw them at, and wondering why they had told me differently at church. It was my first break with religion.
There were times, in the ensuing years, where there was a day with my Grandmom, and pretty clothes on us, and things were more or less okay, if boring. I don’t remember ever holding anything in my hand that my mother was pleased to receive. I think my father, the Lothario, was much better at making me feel like he desired my presents and my presence. He was looking for women who were crazy about him, and he always found one of those on my face.
Later, as an adult, it became largely about going through the motions, finding a card to express to my mom how freaking amazing she was, which, truth be told I often did feel, and, truth be told, I often didn’t feel too. Choosing the card at the mall, or, as a grownup, the drugstore, could take an hour or more of a hard-target search for one she would find appealing, and I could find palatable, believable. I usually chose funny, and she usually wanted sappy.
Later, as I worried I’d never marry, and then after I got married as an older bride, Mother’s Day became the poke in the eye to tell me I wasn’t pregnant. And there was another year gone. Oh my god those damn eggs were so freaking old! Hurry, Baby, hurry! Get those eggs in the pan before it is too late! But it was too late. And when I started trying, with hubby in tow, to jump start the damn things with medical help, my mother kept remarking to me, “Well, I don’t know why you’re working at this so hard, wasting money. You never said you wanted kids before. Just let it go.” And though the brick twin was long gone at that point, and my parents’ marriage too, I could feel myself leaning into that wall again, next to the little bathroom with the water bugs in it, feeling as if whatever I had in my fingers, pregnancy test, hormone pills, injectables, was a thing I did not want to crinkle, and as if it was also a useless desperate thing that would never work on the problems I threw it against. And I was right.
This body, my body, so much of my experience of it has come from outside of me, from the comments of others over whether it was pretty enough, or tall enough, or thin enough, or properly coiffed, or busty enough, whether I had too much in the thigh area, whether my hair was the right color, whether my eggs were too old, whether my cramps were real, or my headaches severe, or my pregnancy false, or if my miscarriage was done enough to count, or how my uterus was growing the wrong things, creating an errant fruit salad with one fibroid like a cantaloupe, and one like an orange, and one like a strawberry, and a couple like grapes.
And so, onward and upward, to adoption. To waiting and waiting to become a knight of the motherhood. When, when would I get chosen? And a year passed, and another, and I wasn’t worried about the eggs aging anymore, but I was worried about the rest of me passing its expiration date. And watching those other mothers with their kids on the computer screen, in the park, on TV, was like cake crumbs sucked down the wrong pipe. We were always supposed to be celebrating, but this celebration was choking me.
And then, the prize. I got the prize! The day came that another womb’s perfect little creation was given over to me, and finally I was a mother, and no one could say any different.
Except that there are those people out there, who have been adopted by assholes who erased their culture or treated them mean, or those people who were adopted by okay or even great people, but, dammit, it was all done without their consent, and they did not, as adults, give retroactive consent. And it was and is just a fucked-up system. When I was waiting to adopt, those angry adoptees, those empty-armed birth mothers, they were not there, but after, they were everywhere, and I was a colonizing imperialist. There was a hierarchy, the baby, the birth mother, and me, the fake thing. And the focus is on pleasing first the baby, then the birth mother, and never the fake thing. And the fake thing must make things as wonderful as she can, and be ready to apologize for her parenting desires and imperialism, and acknowledge how she is not allowed in on the conversation, and she should be on standby, forever, waiting if needed to supply something to the other two, but never needing anything herself, parasite. And, of course, as an adoptive parent, if you thought about this all day you’d never have the freaking stamina to change a diaper, and since neither the adoptee or the birth mother is going to change the diaper, that diaper does need to be changed. Which is not to say that the birth mother didn’t want to change the diaper. And is not to say that she wouldn’t have changed the diaper if all the forces in the world that exist to disenfranchise women hadn’t disenfranchised her the fuck out of her baby. But, and this is also a fair point, you did not engage in that, know about that, or foster that, and, even if you did know about it then, or you do know about it now, there is not an action you can take to remedy it, and there is a person, small and vulnerable, who now is in a soiled diaper with no one to change it. And so you suck up all the vitriol for what you have done, for the mother lust that sent you to seek out someone else’s darling to parent, and you hide your joy, your unseemly unhallowed and unwanted love and glee, and you put your head down and cautiously, gently, blow a raspberry against a bare tummy, and change that poopy diaper.
And finally, I am a mother and no one can say any different.
Except that we don’t look even remotely related, her Asian features against my British ones.
And everyone would ask me if I was her aunt, her babysitter, her grandmother. Everyone who I don’t know, who happens to shop at Target or Food Lion needs to know; they need to know all about me, and I had better answer or they will follow and even yell questions, and it is all so obvious, but not in that glowing, “Aren’t you the perfect mom” way I’d always hoped for.
And it’s Mother’s Day.
And the other husbands are laying rose petals on the floor; you know those guys. You know who those bastards are who arrange for flower delivery, or private massages, or photo sessions in weirdly matching clothes, or sips of champagne. I’ll tell you who those bastards are; they are the bastards most of us aren’t married to. Most of us are married to working stiffs who don’t know what we should eat for dinner, who think “A nice card, yeah, a nice card and maybe the kid can make something.” And really what’s wrong with that, except that the bitches who have their own cooking shows or remodeling shows or “I’m rich, so watch me live my life on YouTube” shows push it in our faces that on this day their bastardy over-achieving husbands have come through again with “Champagne wishes and caviar dreams” for their sexy Madonna-mother-of-my-child wives. And so the nice card, and the macaroni picture from the kid, and the wilted dandelion from the yard, and you cook your own dinner, and you feel like it’s the same old day, and, mostly, it is all a bad play you’re forced to perform in, again.
And Father’s Day is so much easier. Dad’s have no expectations. They don’t really know what it is all about or why we are doing it. And though on Father’s Day the TV-Madonna-success wives put on a show of pomp and circumstance for us to marvel at as they dramatically worship their seed-depositing men, our men aren’t watching those shows, so they don’t know that is happening, and if they did watch them it would all seem ridiculous to them.
And today, Mother’s Day, is about keeping my mother from exploding. Finding something to do that the three of us can stomach that makes my mother (Hubby’s mom is mercifully dead) feel that attention has been paid in an appropriate enough way that she can report it to her friends.
So, Happy Mother’s Day, glorious mothers of all types and everywhere, can we finally stop doing this now?
UPDATE: My wonderful daughter and hubby gave me a great present this morning, a succulent garden in an old tin that they made themselves, fingers full of cactus needles, and a huge coffee holder for our road trip later with my mother, and a whole fun conversation with my daughter where we debated the spelling of one of our favorite expressions, mother-fucker, and is it that way, or muther-fucker, or mutha-fucka, and hubby feigned mock horror, which we needed so that we could play off of it, and there was coffee and bacon too! I love them. I love our little unit of three. I love our lives on lockdown too.