Disclaimer: This is not a pleasant post. I’m not in my happy place. I’m not even in my- I can joke or rhyme my way out of this abyss, place.
I don’t scorn all holidays. Okay, maybe I do. I detest some more than others depending on the year. My three most hated holidays are my birthday, Christmas, and Mother’s Day. I loathe them all. (If you’re counting, that’s five synonyms for hate in one brief paragraph.)
Looking at my list of three, I realize those holidays center on gifts. I don’t like to be on the receiving end. I’d rather be appreciated every day than to have one day designated to mollify a gifter’s guilt. Harsh, I know.
The Christmas ritual: people who would not otherwise take the trouble to assemble do so bearing unwanted gifts, purchased on credit, sharing a fowl meal over objectionable conversation sparked when relations, with their limited scope of ideologies, offer opinions freely. These gatherings are rarely by choice. You know the tired cliché- you can choose your friends, but you can’t choose your family. Yeah.
Last month was my birthday. Spare me. It’s like passing a kidney stone. I don’t discuss it, and if anyone is unfortunate enough to recall the date and mention it, I ignore them and apologize on another day, unless they’re a repeat offender. My birthday is when I acknowledge my aging reflection in the mirror and consider how little I accomplished the previous year. Ticktock. What did you do on your summer vacation? I’d rather spend it alone than hear the repeated mention by rote demanding I be “happy.”
This subject merits a second paragraph. As a courtesy, and to set an example, I ignore other people’s birthdays. (I make an exception for my children because I like for them to remember who grew them.) Reciprocation, please. Extend me the courtesy of a lack of acknowledgment it would be the only gift I would welcome. Do unto others— Why won’t people respect that request? At some point, it becomes about them.
Mother’s Day c’est le jour de l’enfer. It’s subjective. It is fluid. The significance is different each year for each person depending on circumstances. To state the evident: it’s not about cards, flowers, or chocolate to me, although it may be for some. That would be too easy, to throw money at it. It’s more about stretch marks. Those tiny scars, invisible on some and obvious on others, are a metaphor. Motherhood is a double-edged sword. You can’t manage it without injury.
Mothers — we all had one, whether we knew her or not. Some of us are moms and have experienced the job that spans from triumph to failure. It suffers an unbearable weight of responsibility, affecting a human being’s life. Your mother can make or break you. She can be your advocate, a source of pain, neglect, or perhaps all. Mothers can wound as few others can. Some are difficult to please and have never uttered the words “I love you.” Others are like me.
On this day I think of my failures as a mom, the cues I missed that could have spared harm, poor timing, painful decisions, misplaced priorities, disastrous wardrobe decisions, bangs.
This year I find myself sandwiched between generations. I have mixed emotions too. I’m filled with pride in knowing the adults my children have become. The other sandwich slice is my 87-year-old mother. I have become her caretaker. Like most families, we have a complicated relationship. I realize now that I never really knew my mother. She worked and spent every spare minute trying to make my abusive father happy. That was her identity.
What is weighing heavily on my shoulders is that my mom has become my child. She has been living with me since February. This change has not been easy. That’s an understatement. These are terrible thoughts, but I keep thinking about when I was eighteen and moved out of my parents’ home. I fantasize about doing it again, but this my house.
I am selfish. Our differences are somewhat generational, but I often resent having a new shadow, living with my harshest critic, who has become my responsibility. I am thankful for this time with her, but I didn’t expect it to be this hard– it is a lot.
(breathe in breathe out)
I’m grateful for the mask I wear when we’re in public because it gives me a level of privacy I wouldn’t otherwise have.
I have become the chauffer from “Driving Miss Daisy.” The music from the film plays in my head. My mother is originally from the south. Her long-lost southern dialect is making a comeback. She pronounces the silent h in words like when, where, and why. I suppose when I’m 87 my nasal Chicago twang will return. (DA bears.)
Holidays hurt. They drudge memories of disappointment. Maybe those disappointments have made me who I am.
Mother’s Day this year for me is about parenting a parent. It is a responsibility like no other. The only thing I can compare it to is when my first child was born. I felt alone and overwhelmed- the H is silent.