“When’s Mother’s Day?” my eleven year old son asks, from the backseat of my minivan.
“This coming Sunday, May 11,” I answer.
And as so often happens, a simple question from my son inspires me to write.
I’ve had a few really special Mother’s Days in my life ...
1977—This is the first Mother’s Day I remember in detail, complete with the texture of color, sound, and smell. I had just turned ten and the Friday morning prior to Mother’s Day my mother woke me, before it was light outside, to let me know that she was in labor. Two days later on the morning of Mother’s Day, I was allowed to visit my mom at the hospital and meet, for the first time, my baby brother who now has a son of his own and another baby on the way. Until he began having his children, I was convinced I could never love another’s children as much as my own. I was wrong.
1995—I found out I was pregnant for the first time a week prior to Mother’s Day. I still have the Mother’s Day card my husband was smart enough to buy me and remember vividly the naive excitement regarding my pregnancy and what motherhood would bring. I knew that 1995 would be a turning point in my life. I knew that it would be a time when nothing that came before this year could compare to what would come after. I knew this would be the year I would finally become a grown-up. I just didn’t know how. I thought I did. I was wrong.
1996—I spent this Mother’s Day visiting the cemetery in a pouring rain, weeping for the baby boy buried in the tiny white velvet casket underneath a headstone with “Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep” engraved upon it. I seemed a million miles away from 1995. I thought I would never be at peace again. I thought I may never become a mother with a baby to hold. I was wrong.
1997—I spent this Mother’s Day learning to breastfeed my now eleven year old son. My husband surprised me with a ring that contained the birthstones of my son in heaven and the one at my breast. When my daughter was born three years later, she was kind enough to come two weeks early so that the ring now contains her birthstone as well. In the chaos of having a newborn after a very difficult delivery, I thought I would never get the hang of motherhood. I was wrong.
2007—Last year my son presented me with a most unusual gift ... actually, of all the gifts he has ever given me it is the one that is the most special. And as it often is with gifts that come from the heart, it is one I will never forget. The Friday before Mother’s Day I picked my children up from school and my son was in a very grumpy mood. Nothing I did seemed to make his mood any better. I inquired with his sister about anything that may have happened at school. All she could say was that he seemed just fine until I arrived to pick them up. His moodiness continued through Saturday and as he went to bed that night, I decided that he must be coming down with something. The next morning I awoke early to find him in the office using the computer. He knows he’s not allowed to access the Internet without permission and when he saw me he immediately told me that he was only using Microsoft Word and was not on the Internet.
As I proceeded to the kitchen for coffee, my daughter was coming down the stairs with a messy bedhead, sleep in her eyes, and a flowerpot with her hand prints on both sides. Always the morning person in our house, she all but screamed, “HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY!” As we were discussing what type of flower we should purchase to plant in the flowerpot, my son entered the kitchen with a single sheet of paper in hands. He handed it to me with a bowed head and tearful eyes. As I turned it over and began to read what was written next the to pink heart he had obtained from his clip art library, I too had tearful eyes. I was reminded of why I love being a mother so much and why being perfect either as a mother or as a child is never really necessary. The letter he had written that morning on Microsoft Word said the following:
I didn’t make the Mother’s Day project at school in the past week; so that was why I was about to cry. I’m so sorry, it’s my fault, I did not get my work done fast enough. I’m sorry.
As he allowed me to hug him I could feel all the distress he had carried with him through weekend melt away. For the first time in quite awhile, he didn’t let the hug go before I did. I’m sure this is why he was inquiring about the exact date of Mother’s Day this year. What he doesn’t know is that while whatever gift he is making me at school will surely make me smile, it probably won’t forever hang on my refrigerator and in my heart like last year’s gift.
Before I became a mother, I thought I had all the answers and would teach them to my children. I was wrong. It’s the other way around.