I was walking through the grocery store last weekend when I saw in my periphery a greeting card with a pug on it. I grabbed my partner’s arm and said “Look! Look at that pug!” and when I swung back around I felt my stomach hurl itself down my knees to the sweat-slick floor of that industrial grocery store conglomerate because – fuck! – it was a pug, yes, but that pug’s speech bubble said “I love you, mom!”
It’s almost Mother’s Day. And after Mother’s Day, it will be almost Father’s Day. Thinking about it makes my breath shallow. Look: as I’m writing, my heart is trying to maneuver itself into a panic attack because it can’t figure out why I would choose to delve into my mom feelings. But here I am. I want to tell you two things:
1) There are people out there who are in pain this time of year because the actions of our mothers and fathers are not greeting-card-worthy.
2) If you’re one of these people like me, listen to me: you’re not alone.
I’ve been out of contact with my parents since last fall. It was really hard, but it’s gotten easier and I’ve grown stronger and better because of it. I can’t speak for others in my place, but there will probably always be a wound inside of me where mommy and daddy were supposed to be, and I think I’m okay with that. It’s mostly scabbed over, at least, and I try not to mess with it too much. But I’m going to be honest with you now: I don’t know how to protect that wound between now and June 17th.
If you’re one of those people who has a mom/best-friend, I envy you. It might sound bitter but I swear – I am so happy that you have that because we all deserve it. I’ve often thought there was something wrong with me for not having a relationship like that with my mother—for not even understanding the mechanics of those feelings. If you’re one of those people for whom dad is a saint and mom is a hero, I want you to know I am glad. I also want you to know that there is someone in your life who sees your “I <3 Mom” Facebook profile frame and tilts their head like a dog trying to understand Latin. It looks so beautiful, and we are fucking baffled.
Hey, this is not to say that you shouldn’t publicly celebrate this spring. You should be happy about good things. Just try to remember something for me: if your friends or your family aren’t quite as jubilant, it’s okay. Let it be okay. Some of us just don’t have any reference for what you’re feeling. Please don’t ask us why we aren’t posting pictures of our dads playing catch with us in the nineties. Please don’t say “but she’s your MOTHER.” We know. God, do we know.
Now I’m going to talk to the rest of us for a minute. You know who you are. Have you ever spent an hour in the store the Saturday before Mother’s Day looking for a card that fit your needs? Are you painfully aware that there is no missive that says “This fulfills my obligation and reveals no internal feelings, so Happy Mother’s Day I guess?” I know how exhausting that is. It’s okay if it makes you tired; it makes me tired, too.
Here’s something I’m ashamed of: one year I held my breath and I bought a card that said “Happy Mother’s Day to someone who is not just a mom but also a best friend.” My mama cried when she opened it. Out on the back porch, in the cocooning light of May, she said, “I’m so happy you feel that way.” But the card was a trick. I didn’t feel that way. I lied because it was easier to lie and it made my mother proud. I’m sorry now. It’s like I said; I was tired.
So here we are. I’m getting worried about Mother’s Day and I am preemptively nervous about Father’s Day. But the thing is this: I’ve come a long way and I’m just not willing to die under the weight of this strange, tulip-filled sadness. Instead of spending my time avoiding the mall, the television, and the torrential stream of internet affection, I’m going to celebrate a loving and nurturing presence just like the Hallmark gods intended. Here’s what I’m saying: there is a nurturing presence inside myself and I’m buying it some motherfucking flowers.
I think we deserve to celebrate. We should celebrate because we’ve done something big. In some small or large part, we’ve parented ourselves. You and I have learned through loneliness, judgment, or scorn that our own souls are strong and that they are to be trusted. Our instincts are pure and our minds are valuable. Instead of mourning comfort – the love of a father or a mother – let’s celebrate the goodness that we have brought into this world. If you have children, celebrate the fact that against all odds you’ve thrived and made a better life for them than the one you were given. That, my friend, is miraculous. You and I and all of the parentless children out there – we are miraculous.
It’s going to be hard to buy groceries for a while. I know. When the parental love storm swirls above you and every red flag in your heart stands upright, it’s going to be scary. But I believe in you. I believe in me, too. I’m going to turn my red flags into banners that say “Great job, Liz! Go ahead and buy that pre-wrapped foot scrub gift box but do it for yourself. You nurtured the hell out of you, and you deserve every greeting card, every brunch, and every joy that the world can throw at you.”
We’ve got this. Happy You Day.