May 9, 2011
When I was about 12 years old, my father and my brother and I did the unthinkable.
We forgot about Mother’s Day.
I suppose, if we’re really looking to assign blame here, my father’s the one to logically throw under the proverbial bus. I was only 12, after all, and in the throes of a typical self-involved, melodramatic adolescence, and my brother, at age 4, was just really excited about his bike and the cat. Dad, as the adult, should have remembered. (Sorry, Dad.)
But regardless of whose fault it was, all of us ended up in the same horrifying boat:
We made my mother cry.
Even now, more than 20 years later, I still want to climb into my closet and hide just thinking about it.
My mother never asks for anything for herself. I know everyone always says that, but it’s really true. And I don’t mean that in some kind of martyred “Oh, no, REALLY – I don’t need anything. No, REALLY (sniffle, sniffle)” kind of way. If my mom wants something for herself, she’ll get it, but she doesn’t get off on guilt-tripping us for imagined slights. She is her own woman, which is one of the things I love most about her.
But I imagine even the most independent of women like to be acknowledged now and then.
Maybe it was the respective phases of life we were all embroiled in at the time: Me in my aforementioned self-involved adolescence, obsessed (against all reason) with New Kids on the Block and talking on the phone with my friends and going on hayrides with boys who may or may not want to hold hands while pointedly not talking to one another. My brother with his diminishing dependence on my mother and insistence that he COULD SO ride a dirtbike, despite being only four. My father with his growing business that demanded his attention days, nights and sometimes weekends.
It’s safe to say we were all a little self-involved at this point.
When the morning came and went with no acknowledgement from her selfish family, my mother held back tears during church, begrudgingly ate the lunch we haphazardly slung together in a desperate attempt to redeem ourselves and then after a muted fight with my father, told us all she wanted to be alone for a little while.
We all retreated to our rooms, mortified, leaving her to clean up the kitchen.
I’ve seen some great discussions this week (on Twitter and also on this fantastic blog) about Mother’s Day, and what it means to different mothers, and the expectations therein. Do you make your mother queen for a day? Card and a phone call? Gifts? Breakfast in bed? Pats on the back? If you’re a mother, do you celebrate with just you and your family, or do you include your mother and the MIL and the grandmas and OMG where does it all end? I’m a mother to two dogs: Does that count?
All those years ago, I think my mother would have been satisfied with an extra hug and a kiss, and a “Happy Mother’s Day” followed by a heartfelt “I love you.” Maybe a card would’ve been nice. But just the act of acknowledging the absolutely ESSENTIAL role she played in our lives, just one day out of the entire year, was all she really wanted.
I remember being in my room, feeling horrible and guilt-stricken, listening to my mother sniffle in the kitchen (which happened to be right underneath my room). My room was a loft that, at that time, had no enclosing wall or door – it was open to the living room below, with only a railing separating the two areas.
I picked up a little notebook I had lying around and wrote my mother an apology. I have no idea what it said exactly, but if I had to guess, I’m sure it was something eloquent like, “Dear Mom, I am really really really really really really totally sorry that we forgot about Mother’s Day. You are awesome and I love you. And I’m really really really really totally glad you’re my mom. Love, Shannon. PS: It was totally Scotty’s fault.”
Then I folded it into a little paper airplane and, lying on my stomach near the railing, just above the kitchen, I threw it into the kitchen where my mother was still loading the dishwasher.
It fluttered down and hit the floor, but since my mother’s back was turned, the only one who noticed it was the cat, who just sniffed and batted at it disinterestedly before leaving the room. I wasn’t about to let my good deed go unappreciated (see? Selfish!), so I made a “Pssst! PSSSSSSSSST!!!” noise until she got the hint, turned around and saw the note. She read it quietly, then folded it up and put it in her pocket and stood there for a minute, staring into space.
I crept downstairs and went to give her a hug; she hugged me back, but her heart wasn’t quite in it yet.
She, of course, got over our family faux pas – I’m not even sure if she remembers this at all, actually. But I know for a fact that none of us have forgotten about Mother’s Day since then.
This year, I sent her a card that’s arriving late. I called, but didn’t visit – we were traveling, exhausted (see? Still selfish) and didn’t make the trip up.
So today, just a little late, I picked up my electronic pen and notebook and started to write.
Some things never change.
Mom, even though I didn’t forget about Mother’s Day, I’m really really really really totally sorry I didn’t get to spend it with you. You are awesome, and I love you. PS: I’m still trying to figure out a way to blame it on Scott. I’ll keep you posted.