THE RANT: And here it comes again. That lovely May day when you try like mad to enjoy being a mother while you try like mad to enjoy/appreciate/spoil your own mother. And/or mother-in-law. And/or grandmother, or two, or three. Oh, and all the rest of the deserving moms in your life: a few sisters, sisters-in-law, your favorite aunt, a couple of cousins, your best friend, etc, etc, etc.
Lest you forget to commemorate all these women, just turn on the TV, fire up your computer, pass any store window. There is no excuse for failing to locate the perfect gift, the card that makes her bawl, the reservation that’s only had by calling every restaurant for miles at least a month in advance. The world won’t let you.
By the end of Mother’s Day, I can’t wait to crawl into bed.
So last year, I did the unthinkable. I skipped town.
For the second weekend in May, I planned a family trip to Chicago. The decision – which I made by booking a flight with the click of a mouse – was greeted with surprise by my mom. It was Her Day and she’d miss having her only daughter at the yearly brunch I’d attended, faithfully, since 1967. But she just smiled and hugged me goodbye because after all, I’m a mother now too. I’ve got rights.
I felt guilty. Sort of. OK, not really. I tossed out a few measly apologies, lied about being sad to miss the hoopla, then packed up and flew away. I was off to celebrate my very own Mother’s Day for the very first time, without all those inter-generational moms cutting into my cake. On board, I buckled up and thought about ordering a Pinot Grigio. I had cut the cord. I was selfishly, blissfully, unashamedly free.
THE QUESTIONS: As the plane soared away from home, I pondered my Mother’s Days past. When did the day of carnations become such a drag?
As a kid, I’d collect cash from my brothers and get a buzz shopping the local mall for something, anything, Mom might like. After years of gift-giving, I finally earned my turn, and reveled in my own big day when my kids were small. They’d squeal me awake with a tray of burnt toast and still-raw eggs and fancy cards at 7am. Yum.
Yes, for many years, Mother’s Day was all good. And then the kids turned into teens.
Bye-bye cards, toast, cake. Nice knowing ya. Somehow, from one year to the next, spending the day – the WHOLE DAY – with MOM turned into a chore. That 180 stung even if, begrudgingly, I could see their point. This artificial, random day you’re forced to enjoy the company of your mother, and every other lady in your life, is sort of lame, and definitely crazy-making. It has a habit of shifting me into overdrive trying to please everyone at the expense of myself. Let’s call it the dark side of a mom’s regular life, all squeezed into 24 hours.
So what did I really want for my own, personal, keep-your-grubby-hands-off-it Mother’s Day?
THE ANSWER: Since I had set myself free, it was only fair that I do the same for my kids. No need to crack open wallets or slave over poems. All I wanted was their company on a windy day in the Windy City.
THE POSTSCRIPT: Despite the miles between us, my mom was everywhere on Mother’s Day. I saw her freckles in the mirror when I was getting dressed. And there she was again, in my daughter’s blue eyes. When my boys held my hands, I could feel all those times she grabbed onto mine. I caught myself, many times that day, thanking my mother in my mind for being the most supportive, unselfish person in my life, and for giving me something I can never repay: The gift of becoming a mother myself.
So I went home and forced my mom to spend an entire day all alone with me – whether she was up for it or not.
THE MORAL: There’s nothing like a little selfishness to show you what what being a mother, and a daughter, and a friend, is all about.