Being Mother’s Day, I wondered if I should write a post about my mother but then I thought, no. It’s too sad, really, and not the kind of tribute others want to read. Many mothers, it seems, left dark mysteries and heartaches as legacies to their daughters. Mine was no exception. It would be more fitting to write about MJ on some other occasion, like a cold rainy day, when there’s no sunshine to compete with my pen or my memories.
I then thought maybe I should write about my kids, but everybody who reads this blog already knows how much they mean to me, and Lis and Mac have heard it a thousand times over. We celebrated Mother’s Day early this year, and I was beautifully spoiled, but in a grown-up way I’m not sure I’ll ever really get used to. Not that I don’t appreciate the thoughtful and lovely things my children pick out, but let’s face it — they’re not exactly finger paintings or handcrafted dinosaur dioramas. They’re not rhinestone studded potholders or construction paper cards. They’re not Mommy presents, but presents for a Mother. With a capital M. Meaning mature, meaning older.
I miss the days of getting misty-eyed over Crayola drawings. I miss reading children’s books out loud. I miss writing stories for my own kids. I miss the smell of freshly shampooed heads, and the feeling that the crook of my arm had a divine purpose. I miss having a little person to go places with, and I miss how everything that was old and boring to me was brand new and exciting to them, like light switches, twinkling stars, ice cubes, and telephones. I miss the grade school essays they wrote about family, even when they were embarrassing. Along with “I love my mom. She is funny and good and paints my fingers,“ my daughter also once wrote, “My mom’s favrite thing is be naked and eat spaggetti.” (Meaning — I like to take baths and eat spaghetti. Separately. One is a naked activity, the other is not).
My son once told his school principal that I gave him fifteen names, and then proceeded to tell him all the derivations, terms of endearment, and nicknames I gave him. The principal called me and told me I was confusing my son, who apparently didn’t know what his birth name was. Of course MacKenzie Richard Cooper Ross Love Honey Boychik Sweetie Handsome Boo Bear LittleMan Mackie Deega Daw knew his name. He just thought it was funny to string the principal along. The same way he thought it would be funny, at three years old, to sneak to the top of my closet, where I kept a whole bunch of promotional materials left over from radio remotes. One of the boxes contained colored and glow-in-the-dark condoms. Mac decided these would be great for preschool. We were living in uber-conservative Montana then, and the preschool owner was a devout Christian. I got the call about an hour after dropping Mac off. She was not amused, and Mac was kicked out of preschool. (Is there a doubt which of my kids were the problem child? Of course, it was the one most like me).
I really should have had 10 more kids, spaced two-four years apart each, so that I could always have one in tow. It’s strange to me being the mother of grown-ups. I still have a lot of child left in me, and am often surprised by the mirror image of a 46 year old woman. I am nineteen, fourteen, ten, and five in so many ways. I remember viscerally every moment and milestone of childhood — my own, and my children’s. I remember the taste of Pixie Stix even though I haven’t had one in years, and I still get a little thrill over seeing old favorites like Old Maid, Chinese jump ropes, Jacks, and real roller skates in the toy section of the department store.
I coo over other people’s babies and toddlers, and think how very lucky they are. And I have to admit I feel a small pang of envy every time I see one of those big toothless smiles from an infant, or watch a toddler doing the it’s-all-new-to-me mummy walk. I still browse the children’s section in a store, and wish more of my friends had babies so I’d have an excuse to buy tiny shoes, jeans, and dresses.
Neither my recently engaged daughter or my college-attending son want children any time soon. My daughter hasn’t decided if she wants children at all. She dreams, instead, of an inter-species ranch, with dozens of feathered and furry beings to fill her time.
So I’m in the in-between stage. No longer a mother to little ones, and not yet a grandmother. (Yikes. If I don’t feel old enough to be the mom of grown-ups, I sure don’t feel old enough to be called grandma. Still, if it happened tomorrow, I’d be thrilled. And I’d be called Nana). In the meantime, of course I think about it. Adoption. Giving birth. Doing it all over again, but better, with more experience, more wisdom, and more purposeful intentions.
Then I look around. The world outside is growing colder by the minute. People are just a shade crueler than they have ever been before. Apathy not only abounds, but has become a way of life for millions. Irrationality is still acceptable, and even promoted and catered to in some circles. Opportunities slip and slide and no matter how good or smart a person is, there are no guarantees of success. There are pains involved in raising children, and those pains almost always involve other people, like bad parents, bullies, and tired teachers. The rest of the world will never care about or want to protect your children as much as you do.
I look, too, at my clean apartment. There are no crumbs on the floor, no piles of school papers on the kitchen table, no mountains of laundry waiting to be done. Didn’t I wait for this? Didn’t I long for the day when I wasn’t mopping up after muddy shoes and endlessly folding clothes? Didn’t I yearn for the day when I could take a long, uninterrupted bath, or write for hours at a stretch? Of course I did. But the frustrating part of parenting was the smallest part. The larger part — the gold stars and long talks, the small hands in clay and the school age dramas — never got old. Only my children did. I, on the other hand, hardly aged at all, unless one counts in years and biology. I don’t. I count in words and memories. In experiences and feelings.
And on this Mother’s Day, I feel both fulfilled and empty. Like a mother, of course, and one who is well-loved and appreciated, but one who’s also missing the days of being a Mommy. Missing the goodnight kisses, the tuck-ins, and those sweet hours between their bedtime and mine, when I actually relished my “alone time” and felt compelled to do something grand, special, or important with it. Now there are many such hours. I fill them as well as I can, with work, writing, books, projects, friends, pets, and more — but.
I just miss being a stroller-toting, school work correcting, dinner fixing, Band-Aid carrying, bath running, toy buying, tickle your back, love you to infinity and bigger than the universe, crook of the arm Mom.