Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Mother's Day

I hate occasions where it is mandatory to feel certain sentiments. I hate mandatory sentiment. I hate tokens of sentiments being elevated to the level of authentic experience.

I hate 'Hallmark Holidays'.

I wonder if this...sentiment...is going to be cause for regret someday.

The cynical and rebellious part in me feels that Mother's Day, Grandparent's Day, Father's Day, and yes, "Everybody-Under-the-Sun-That-You-Ever-Have-Occasion-to-Encounter's Day" (Christmas) are 'made-up' holidays that are examples of the emperor's new clothes. Everyone gives them allegiance because, well, everyone gives them allegiance.

As a mother myself now, I'm not a purely unbiased party. But I still think I could do without it.

I wonder if I'd feel differently if we lived far enough away that it wasn't a 'shared occasion' with my mother in law. We did have 5 mother's days away, though, when we lived in St. Louis. I was indifferent there too, come to think of it.

Gary wanted to take a boys' ski trip. When the MD weekend appeared to be the one that was fine with me. Maybe we'd get to escape a stressful mandatory brunch in a restaurant (Scott and Connor both get restless in restaurants that aren't fast-food franchises. An overcrowded over-busy Mother's Day promises long delays and for food that doesn't delight them.). The boys are not comfortable with Gary's mother and generally she wants only to talk to Gary about things that aren't of interest to them--lots of detail about neighbors they've never met and issues that don't concern them. Since we've returned to Portland and proximity to her this is a once a year event I'm just as glad to be done with. The thought of getting to skip it this year was a pleasant one.

But it's not to be. Gary's big on form, and satisfying these social shoulds. So he's going to be cutting his trip short because he can't miss mother's day. The other night at dinner he said he would be home. I said, "You know, you really don't have to do that" (although I'm aware that it's not really for me, but his mother, that he's doing it). Connor's ears pricked up: "You don't like Mother's Day? How could a mother not like Mother's Day?" I said, "I don't like any situation where you're supposed to feel a certain way, or act like you feel a certain way--meaning enrich the greeting cards and flower and chocolate companies. I don't like any situation that implies that you're selfish or heartless if you don't want to participate."

Yesterday Connor came down with a rash at school, and I was on the way down the hill with him to the doctor's when a mother's day ad came on the radio. I wasn't even listening, but he said, "I see what you mean about Mother's Day, Mom. They do lay on the guilt." We talked some more, me with an uneasy feeling that I might just be giving him permission to never observe Mother's Day for me. And am I prepared for that? It is the logical conclusion of my honest judgment of it as one of those arbitrary social-consensus type 'made-up' affairs that I can't put my heart into. Will I regret this? Will I be 90 in a nursing home someday watching my fellow residents being taken out in their corsages and hats while I'm left with standard nursing-home grub? Would it be hypocritical to say, "I for one do appreciate a bit of heart-felt appreciation", or does that amount to: "I think it's stupid, but I'll be hurt if you don't do it for me anyway?"

I decided to let my words stand and take whatever consequences come.

But I have to acknowledge a terrible, quiet place inside of me, an awareness. My awareness is that there's A Glow In the Woods, a terrible, sacred place for women, Mothers, to gather. Mothers who have lost their children. The Abyss is in them, and they live with It constantly. They give comfort to each other in this Place, and my heart aches so for them. It makes me quake, and tremble.


Douglas W said...

I suspect you are saying you hate the artificiality of these nominated days. The commercialisation that has overtaken them. Even the fact of naming one single day to do something that should be done every day of the year anyway.

Because of the scattered locations of my three children, myself, and their mother, we are rarely together in the one place for any of these tagged days. Including birthdays.

It is not uncommon for us to have a birthday dinner weeks, even months, after the event. The same applies to mothers' day, fathers' day, christmas, and all the rest.

The day itself is no longer important to us. Oh yes, I do remember those first few christmases or birthdays when I spent them alone - but so what? It is purely a cultural thing and there are many cultures on this planet that do not place such an emphasis upon these days as we do in the west.

What is important is that we remember each other. Not just on one day, but on any day. That we express our remembrance, and our love, and care in whatever way is appropriate to ourselves.

My children often ask what I might like for christmas or for a birthday. I tell them I don't mind but given a preference it should be something that is from their heart, something that is 'them' - and that can be a letter, something they have made, a photograph, anything at all. Of all the things they have given me over the years the things I value the most are the simple things that they thought of themselves - a letter of thanks from my son; a small painting done by my daughter when in high school.

It is the caring and thought, and remembrance that matters. And these are not restricted to a nominated day or date. They happen all the time and can be expressed at any time.

Who cares about Mothers Day and whether you can have brunch, lunch or dinner somewhere on that day. If you enjoy having restaurant meals with your family it can be done any time. If you don't then have a picnic in the woods on a day that suits and when the weather is good. Or ask the children if they would like to prepare lunch one day - and not worry too much about the mess, or what it tastes like.

No, there are many ways to express our care, and love and appreciation for each other without being drawn in to the commercialised "Buy mum a new vacuum cleaner for Mother's Day" hype.

And if our families express their care for each other throughout the year and not just on the 'special' days, then when we are 90 and in the nursing home we'll probably get to be taken out for dinner many times while the others are still waiting for the nominated day to come around.

Lori said...

I say, skip the card and flowers and give me what I REALLY want: to read the newspaper in bed, go to a yoga class, and then take a long lavender-milk bath with a good book.

What a nice shout out to Glow in the Woods.

(I haven't had time yet to watch the video on your last post -- maybe tonight.)


excavator said...

Like your family, Doug, we're not at all adverse to celebrating a birthday or whatever holiday before or after the fact--within 12 months of the event anyway! My birthday cards are usually late. I figure it just spreads the celebration out over a longer period.

Yeah, Lori, I'm with you, but with a mocha in the morning, a nice red wine in the evening, and lots of dark chocolate in between. I guess there are certain related businesses that I don't mind keeping afloat.

Come to think of it, I'm not adverse to a nice plant for the garden, either.

excavator said...
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