I didn’t have high expectations for Mother’s Day. That’s because on Friday, Mr. 70 Percent called and asked, “What do you want to do for Mother’s Day?” I was pleased that he had thought of it two full days ahead. But, as he should well know after 18 and a half years of marriage, what I most want for Mother’s Day (as well as for my birthday) is not to be asked what I want. For once, I just want someone else to take charge of the plan. “Here’s what we’re going to do,” he says in my fantasy. What follows is utterly unimportant. It could be, “Put on your: hiking boots/flip flops/stilettos” (which might first involve going to the mall to buy some). Or, “Get up; it’s time to go… to the museum/out to brunch/sky diving.” (Point of clarification: poker, golf and fly fishing do not count. It has to be something I enjoy.) The Mother’s Day gift lies not in the object or the activity, but in his assumption of the responsibility. I spend the other 363 days of the year planning, arranging, scheduling, rescheduling, organizing, overseeing, managing and coordinating. Is it too much to ask that someone else deal with it two days a year?
Apparently, yes. But luckily, I’m not much for contrivance, and I recognize the folly of forcing your family to appreciate you on a particular day. I much prefer the spontaneous flashes of sweetness my children show, however rare, to the socially-mandated ones. It helps that I spent three years writing greeting cards for Hallmark, where I learned just how manufactured a holiday Mother’s Day is (along with Grandparents’ Day, Secretary’s Day and Boss’s Day). It was so hard for me to write the treacle that sometimes I had to get the sarcasm out of my system first. In fact, I recently came across a Mother’s Day card for new mothers that I once wrote and presented to the editors as a joke. It shows a scrawny, squawking baby bird in a nest and reads:Congratulations on adding to the nest A new member of your family A baby to regurgitate slimy, raw worms for, And teach to fly, eventually. This cuddly, bald bundle of joy With its beak outstretched to you Will need you to keep it “under your wing,” And show it the proper things to do. It’s your job to teach it just how to fly And soon it’ll be winging afar. You’ll probably teach it how to fly into windows And then how to crap on a car. So now that you’ve hatched your blessing from heaven Treat your new life of motherhood with zest. Because before you can say, “Look out! There’s a cat!” You’ll be left with an empty nest.
Of course, those words hold a tad more poignancy now, with my oldest child looking at colleges, than they did when I wrote them back in my 20s. I have come to understand that ultimately Mother’s Day is about acknowledging all that goes into being a mother, and this year mine certainly achieved that. I folded the laundry, did the grocery shopping, ran some errands, planted some flowers, sewed on a button, filled out camp forms, and fielded complaints about Hebrew school, exhaustion, and a stuffy nose. I also went out to lunch with my husband, had a drink with a friend, and made the kids do the dinner dishes.
The best thing I received was a fill-in-the-blank booklet my 9-year-old daughter had made at school, along with some sort of glittery ceramic paperweight that might be a heart or an acorn or possibly a shell. It said things like: “My mother loves me best when…” “My mother looks prettiest when…” (“she is just her self,” my little angel wrote, inaccurately.) I learned that my favorite book is The Hunger Games, which I’ve never read, and my favorite meal is not seared scallops or filet mignon with a red-wine reduction but “fruit.” However, she nailed it when she wrote that my favorite outfit is “casule ware.” But the best line of all? “I like being with my mother most when….” We cuddle? We go shopping? She takes me to CocoKeys water park? No. My unvarnished girl had filled in: “…she’s in a good mood.” The rest of the family readily agreed. Now if only they could figure out how to put me there.