It is Mother’s Day, in the spring of a year that feels like gauze unravelling, too quickly. There are wounds, scrapes and scars; we have been tended to by separation and isolation and the consolation of soon, of better days ahead, of eventually – but unpin the slight tension that keeps us safely wrapped, and the white, slightly soiled fabric begins to flail and flap. And what sits underneath – that raw, ragged bit of flesh – is still tender. Not quite healed.
It is Mother’s Day, and we are carefully tiptoeing back into what we once took for granted. Our masks are still in our pockets, or in our pocketbooks, but a little less often on our faces to interrupt the breath that propels our words. We wait our turn, honoring the rules, and then enter the shops full of all the things that we didn’t need to clothe ourselves – oh, for at least 12 months or so – that now whisper their siren call to see if we remember, if we recognize the hazy memory of ourself as consumers, of their illusions of dignity.
It is Mother’s Day, and I scrape a hole in the ground and grasp the thin, moist roots of the plant my son has offered as a mirror, a gift – what he sees, what he knows that I love. I pull apart the roots because broken things grow better; I push the peat down into the red clay, tamping down the dust. I will wait and watch this flower grow. I will scatter dark brown mulch around it, a background to enliven the colors and cover the mud.
It is Mother’s Day, and I give thanks for the new life that arrived this year – after all this time – to the beautiful girl with corn husk hair, the one who wrestled with the darkness and bore the injuries of deceit, now settled with love on her lips and a baby boy at her breast.
It’s is Mother’s Day, and I ache for the woman who carries the most beautiful gift of song but has yet to sing the lullaby melody she longs for, who carries a fiery spasm of pain in her belly, as she struggles in the interim of longing.
It is Mother’s Day, and a message comes from one who offered me the spiritual mothering I needed some three decades past; I caught a glimpse of the first few words and looked away. I didn’t want to know, but some boulders bear their truths upon us with no mercy, and so there is news of cancer, and chemo, and I think, My God, my God, seriously? And then I write back, I will pray for you. I love you, and I know that’s completely insufficient and yet absolutely enough.
It is Mother’s Day; I gaze at the photographs that travel through 4115 miles of space and time, bursting from the screen with the joy of a 19-month old toddler who initiated the transformation of a daughter to a mother. My own flesh, my own blood, my own future – a quick glimpse into the continual regeneration and the somewhat disappointing reality that we don’t get to stay and watch it all.
And even as I bear witness to this new life, this joy-filled babble of words strung together and her life beginning to make sense, this power of demands and demonstrations of self…even as she moves forward, I’m well-aware of the deterioration that marks the opposite end of the spectrum. My father, he of the wrapped gauze and injured arms, battling the rude plunge of gravity and legs that have lost their way – my father, on this Mother’s Day, sits with my mother, whose circumstances demand more from her. And of me.
My mother – but now caretaker of my father.
My mother – but now a woman at the end of her rope, wrecked and raw.
My mother – in a no-man’s land of long days and sleepless nights and the dwindling ability to hold things together. She was, first, a daughter.
It is Mother’s Day, and it seems that this moment, this day-long focus on affirmation, is – like everything else these days – riven with bumps and clods of discombobulated dirt. A well-placed heel can smash it to powder, grind it into the grit of the sand and soil beneath our feet. But what once felt so certain and well-travelled, lit with the glare of the expected and the procedural, now feels – like everything else these days – peculiar and slightly dangerous, even unwelcome.
We wear our identities within the fickle frame of circumstance. I do believe that it is a great wisdom to begin to live daily with open hands, palms to the heavens, awaiting the unraveling. It will still catch us by surprise, but perhaps we can say we saw it coming, far off in the distance. Like whispered wisdom from the ancestors; I remember Jesus saying, When you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.
I do not like that this is true, but at some point, we acquiesce.
Daughters become mothers, the barren bear fruit. Broken things take root. The weak become strong, and then weak once again. We bury our loved ones and weep at their graves; at night, their voices become vague memories and the sorrow of forever blankets our restless bodies.
It is Mother’s Day, and outside, the sky remains blue; the slow-moving clouds drift above the tree line. It looks like rain, so I bring in the cushions and start dinner and whisper a small grace:
For this day, I am thankful.