“If evolution really works, how come mothers only have two hands?” — Comedian Milton Berle
To all the mothers, stepmoms, surrogates and nurturers out there, whether young or “seasoned,” Happy Mothers Day!
I gave birth to my DD, darling daughter, when I was a fresh-faced 25-year-old, but the physical part? That’s the least of becoming a mother, even though I WAS in labor for about 13 hours that approximated 30, with several of said hours spent trying to expel what felt like a large, unwieldy object from my nether parts following my granola-fueled decision for a no-drugs delivery: Re. Grett. Able. I can’t underscore that enough for future generations — take the drugs!!! But that laboring was nothing compared to the daily tending, cuddling, coddling, teaching, feeding, leading, cajoling, arguing, laughing, crying and hand-holding these past 30-plus years. And I wouldn’t trade a second of it.
Well, except the time where she had ear tubes put in when she was 18 months old and I had to hand her ruddy-cheeked, squirmy little self over for surgery. DD promptly started wailing as the gowned nurse took her through the double doors, and as she reached her chubby arms toward me, my daughter shot me a look that said, “You’ve abandoned me.” I almost threw up.
Other partings of varying degrees followed: Heading off to kindergarten (sorry about that mean nun, but I swear I had no other day care choices except at the Catholic School!); the first sleepover; the guilt of letting you go spend weekends with your non-custodial, self-described ladies man, fast-food-eating parent; finally realizing you were no longer a little girl by the time you graduated high school with a jersey emblazoned with “Natty,” for Natural Light booze, on the back; the move from your childhood room filled with scrapbooks and stuffed animals to a college dorm room filled with cultish sorority symbols; and watching you glance back to wave goodbye as you stepped through the doors of the international terminal at O’Hare to leave the country–and me–to study abroad. I gave mamahood my best shot throughout, struggling with my less-than-perfect childhood as our road map, that netted us some wrong turns that I pray were outnumbered by wild and wacky joy rides.
But a line in the NY Times this morning made me think about the many ways that mamas and daughters part: “A wedding is a culmination of what you’ve invested in your child’s life,” said Lori Thomas, 62, of San Diego… “It’s the last big thing you’ll do for them.”
In our case, it WAS the last big thing I did–when DD married my darling son-in-law in a sunset ceremony in the desert town where I live, I became the mother of the bride (my mantra during that lead-up year was, “Don’t mess with the MOB”), and I held the role of wedding planner apprentice to the real wedding planner. To DD: I can still close my eyes and feel the magic of that day–scattered crimson bougainvillea petals along the path you took to the outdoor alter to meet your husband, with the sweet notes of Canon in D from a Spanish guitarist and the San Jacinto Mountains as the backdrop. I laugh out loud remembering your admonition that if the 10-piece soul band you hired for the reception played even one note of “Brick House,” they’d be heading back to LA quicker than you could say Commodores. I felt the pure joy of watching people who love you witness this beautiful parting that’s one of the sweetest parts of a life well led.
Yes, the big partings are, well, BIG, but I like to think that magic happens in the tiniest details of everyday life, as I watch you braid Wee’s hair, just like I used to braid yours; or when you kiss Brother’s knee after a nasty scrape, as I did a myriad of times when you were learning to ride your bike; or when you sing “My baby bunting” to your tiniest one, just as I sang to you in that very same rocking chair, often after a long night of rocking you during one of your many ear infections that necessitated those tubes.
So on this Mother’s Day, as I smile just thinking of you and your babies having a superb day some 1,700 miles away, I’m comforted knowing that I will be there with all of you this week for a visit. I’m also anxiously looking ahead to next February and your tenth wedding anniversary as many of the usual suspects return to the stunning scene here in the desert to celebrate with you. And, oh what a celebration it will be!
But I feel most complete by knowing that with all of our partings both big and small throughout the years, I will always be there when you reach out for me–as I know you will be, when I reach back.
Click to read the next post: “Wabi Sabi”
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