It has been 12 years since I've had a mom. It has also been 12 years since I became a mom. The cognitive dissonance can be overwhelming and becomes unbearable as we build up to Mother's Day. My mom died at the start of my third trimester, as I was pregnant with her much-requested first grandchild. And it sucks more and more every Mother's Day. But every year, I also grow to love Mother's Day in a new way.
Soon after my mom's death, I let my subscription to Mother Jones lapse because their renewal notices had marketing copy on the envelopes that read: "Your Mother Wants to Hear from You!" In my head was a litany of curse words about my mother not being able to want much of anything anymore, $%#@#$'ers! This should have been an early warning for the eventual turn of the calendar, which would bring me to not only my first Mother's Day as a mom, but also my first Mother's Day without one.
Each Mother's Day is a war between my pain over the loss of my mother, and the love of my daughter. My daughter wins the battle by a little more every year.
My husband did his best. He bought a gift and signed the card from our 9-month-old daughter. But inside, I was emotionally unavailable to truly celebrate that moment. When writing this piece, I went back through my blog archives to see what I have written in the past about this awkward relationship I have with Mother's Day and I found a short piece I wrote when my daughter was able to reframe the day about me:
"My adorable and loving daughter went crazy for Mother's Day. She not only decorated a flower pot at school and made the requisite handprint card, but she also asked her daddy to go out for flowers. She picked out two cards for me at the store — one from her and one from [our dachshund] that said 'Mom ... It's Mother's Day. Hot dog!' That totally cracked her up.
It wasn't the things that she gave me but rather how she presented them to me ... with total joy and pride. It's hard to explain or describe, but I haven't felt that wave of love for motherhood in some time.
What I think I felt today was that turn I've needed to make for six years. Not so much to 'get over' my mom's death as I've been told, but more of a moving on moment. And it feels fabulous."
Each Mother's Day is a war between my pain over the loss of my mother and the love of my daughter. My daughter wins the battle by a little more every year. As a blogger, it is still damn hard to get all the Mother's Day press releases flooding my inbox with subject lines reminding me that I am missing the person that the jewelry, photo and gadget people want me to buy gifts for. The Mother's Day section of the greetings cards makes me want to bawl my eyes out. I've compensated for this by creating radical Mother's Day gift guides suggesting people buy their moms gifts such as tickets to WNBA games, a subscription to Bitch magazine or a session at Ladies Rock Camp. It made me feel better that someone who still has her mom might rock her world with a bottle of scotch.
The pain of losing my mom is so hard that it took years for me to talk about her to my daughter. I thought it would be easier to just never say anything. But then my daughter started to do things that would remind me of my mom. Little things that would make me think, "She's just like mom." And through the urging of my husband and best friends, I actually started to say it out loud. There's a little something in my daughter that is from my mom. It is only right to not just acknowledge that something, but to share all the other things that made my mom a fun person to spend time with — as well as the things that frustrated me about her.
The last five times Mother's Day has rolled around, the same thing happens. I wake up to find a loving gift and beautiful card from my daughter. My daughter, who never got to know her silly maternal grandmother, takes her job as gift-giver on Mother's Day very seriously. She does things that make me smile, laugh and sometimes, I will admit, allow me to forget what I am missing because what I do have is freaking awesome. My mom would have loved that.