As much as my mother enjoyed certain kinds of attention, she wasn’t insistent upon Mother’s Day. Maybe it was her Scottish upbringing, maybe it was her aversion to overt commercialism (and ain’t that the truth about Mother’s Day, and Valentine’s Day, and…), but I don’t really recall ever going out for any big special Mother’s Day outings. No noisy brunches in crowded restaurants, no fanfare. There would always be a card from me, sure, and perhaps some small gift—like some little tchotchke to add to her miniatures collection, or maybe a Rod Stewart cassette that she didn’t already have or that needed replacement—but otherwise it was always just another Sunday morning at church, and then maybe a drive to the ocean if the weather was nice, just the three of us, but no big deal if it wasn’t. Nothing boastful or social—kinda like all the rest of our holiday traditions, actually.
My favorite Mother’s Day memory is this—that she always insisted (often in conversation with others) that my father never ever under any circumstances buy her any sort of Mother’s Day gift. Not even a card. ‘I’m no’ yer m’ther,’ she’d exclaim with a chuckle. To her, the idea of a husband giving the mother of his child/ren a gift on Mother’s Day made no sense.
Oh, and her feelings about flowers? Hard pass. She did love her flower gardens, though, and once in a great while, Dad would bring home flowers if he had screwed up and had run out of gestures to get things back on track. Otherwise, my mom felt how I have come to feel at times about fresh cut flowers—they are beautiful to behold and it’s depressing to watch them disintegrate.
She did, however, insist that Dad call Grandma Mary every year. ‘She’s th’ only m’ther y’ve goat,’ she’d remind him every chance she got.
And she was right, of course.
Dad’s relationship with his mother was troubled. Kinda like mine with mine. Misunderstandings a mile wide and probably, truthfully, only an inch deep.
Mom died 14 years ago, and I’ve written a number of songs about her, including a few that speak directly to the grief I’ve experienced since her death, like Did I Mention, Goodness Knows, Edith, and Lines and Spaces. I experienced a particularly strong wave of that grief as it came suddenly out of remission this past week—not because of the coming second Sunday in May, but… just because. Something, usually an unexpected something, will remind me of her—or remind me of her absence—and that black hole of grief in whose orbit I have spun since even before she died will pull me closer, until I cannot help but fall in for a little while. With lots of practice, I can think of that black hole as a trampoline off of which I am able to bounce, and as I come to rest again on the solid ground of this joyful, beautiful, tragic world that we all share, I am reminded of how lucky I am to experience grief—because it means I’m alive, and that I love with my whole heart.