Mothers & Other Stuff

As we approach Mother’s Day, I am always aware of how this is a difficult day for some – those who have lost their mothers, those who haven’t had good relationships with their mothers, those who have chosen not to become mothers and too often face society’s questioning of their choices, those who would love to be mothers, but cannot for reasons too vast to expand on.

At various times I have struggled personally through this country’s obsession with motherhood, and still face Mother’s Day with some ambivalence.  My mother is dead, and I don’t really miss her more on this day than on so many others.  I am among the lucky people who know that I had a mother who loved me, but I am even now in the process of writing a memoir that exposes how often even our love could be a battleground. Though I had always hoped to have children, there was a long period of time when I could not conceive that was extremely painful.

And yet, I feel something stirring to celebrate Mother’s Day this year.  My son is a joy and Mother’s Day excites him. We think we may go to see a play and then have a fun meal – something I love to both cook and eat. Maybe that is the joy that underlies holidays – just enjoying the joy of the ones you love – and that is also what makes them so hard when that joy is missing.

So I see this year’s Mother’s Day for me as a chance to experience joy, pay attention to joy, and appreciate joy – as much as I can find in my life.  I share with you a little piece of writing I did in response to a writing class prompt recently that shows my joy in being this wonderful child’s mom.

He’s singing in the bath. How can one beautiful voice be so out of tune.  This is a child who loves to sing, loves his voice, loves making noise. What does he hear?

As the door clicks shut behind me, the thunder of the filling bathtub quiets. There is peace at the end of a long day.  Then the bubble blowing begins. “Brrrrrrrrbbbble,” sidles under the door.  “Buuuurrrrrrrbbbble.” More insistent.

My mother would have a kitten worrying he will drown. He laughs when I have brought this up before. “I know what I’m doing, Mom,” he pacifies.  I know he is right. I can see the red hair, too long says his grandfather, floating among the razzleberry foam of the bathwater. He’s just enjoying his bath.

I settle into my armchair to wait.

I cringe as the loud splashes surely splat onto the aqua bathmat. That will have to be replaced soon, I think, flipping open my laptop. But before I can type in my password, the serenade begins. “This little light of mine.” How does he already know the alto part better than I know the melody? At least, I assume it’s the alto part.  “This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.” We won’t have this clear high soprano boy for much longer. He is almost as tall as me, as he likes to say, stretching his neck as long as he can make it. “Let it shine” – high and lovely.  Does he read my mind? “Let it shine,” deep, as deep as his father’s high notes. “Let it blluuurrbbb.”

He comes up spluttering, cracking himself up as he warbles a tune I haven’t heard before, but will hear many times after.  I type in the password as begins playing with is voice. How high can he sing it? How low? How would a rock or a whale or a jet airplane sing it? What harmonies was the composer simply too rigid to imagine? Is that good musical interpretation? Is it simply ugly? Wait, isn’t that a tenor part? Yes, they’re often ugly alone, but I sense the underlying resonance with the melody.  One day he will be all tenor, or even base. But for now he’s still my baby.

How do you feel about Mother’s Day or other holidays that can be difficult for some? How do your relationships and life experiences frame your reaction?  Do you take time to explore other possible reactions to these days? How do the people in your life express joy? Are you ever too tired to really appreciate it in the moment? How can you look back on those moments and recapture some of that joy?

If you need a companion to explore joy and sorrow, family memories, or just about anything in you life, consider spiritual direction with Openings: Let the Spirit In.

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