For every mother, there’s another. Another woman who, for one reason or another, is not or has not. Mother’s Day is not flowers and pretty cards and adorable handmade gifts for everyone. Some of us are still grieving the loss of our mother or the loss of a pregnancy or having lost custody of our children. Some of us are still coming to terms with our life choices, whether they be career, lifestyle, or perhaps even addiction having brought us through circumstances where motherhood was never a viable option. And some of us have been abused or have never had children and harbor a certain amount of resentment that society and Hallmark persist in holding up motherhood as the ideal and norm for all women.
Every Mother’s Day, my father (who was every bit a scoundrel the other 364 days of the year) would plant geraniums for my mom. Red ones. Buckets of them. I don’t have any recollection of there ever being any tenderness between them. This annual gift of flowers and planting was a ritual carried out as obligation and received with near indifference. But still, all these years later, after both my parents have long since passed, geraniums continue to represent Mother’s Day to me. So, when I was at Home Depot last week picking out flowers for the pots on and around my deck, I had to purchase one red geranium to include among the impatiens, petunias, marigolds, and other pretty plants I do not know the names of. That single geranium is a hardy little bugger and even has a few new red buds. A sign of some sorts, perhaps. Happy Mother’s Day, Mom.
I never had children. Never married, either. I once thought about having a kid anyway, but it was only a fleeting notion. My biological clock was winding down and I remember thinking it was going to have to be then or never. I opted for never. I wouldn’t have made a good mother. Just wasn’t cut out for it. I wouldn’t have made a particularly good wife, either. Years of alcoholism aside, I’ve always been too self-willed, perhaps too selfish, to bend and accommodate the needs and expectations of another. Not that I was the sort of woman who was turning down proposals left and right. No one ever asked. But then, I never settled into a relationship long enough for the question to come up. Those choices don’t make me any less of a woman, though. I’m still whole and complete and (now in sobriety) pretty darn happy. But they are still choices that, for better or worse, are underscored by all the Mother’s Day hoopla.
It seems I am in good company. A woman by the name of Anne Jarvis is acknowledged as the official founder of Mother’s Day. Although mother’s had been getting together to mourn fallen soldiers and support various efforts since Civil War times, Ms. Jarvis organized what has since been recognized as the first Mother’s Day at her church. It was her way of honoring the memory of her own mother who had passed some years earlier. She went on to campaign to have Mother’s Day recognized nationally, only to later become vehemently opposed to the resulting commercialization and actively fight to have the day stricken from the U.S. calendar. Jarvis, herself, never married nor had children. For her, Mother’s Day was the setting aside of a day of remembrance, a day to honor the memory of mothers lost. Had Anne Jarvis’ intent been preserved, I would be on board with Mother’s Day 100%. As it is, though, I am left with mixed emotions.
I know, before this day is over, some well-intentioned stranger or two or three will wish me a Happy Mother’s Day. They will look at me, certain I am most probably a mother and a grandmother, and be sincere in their well wishes. Such greetings neither annoy nor disturb me, but they do make my heart ache for the women whose hearts will break in two if they even hear those words a single time. For the mothers out there, I wish you a happy Mother’s Day crammed full of love and hugs and blessings. But if you are another, one of the other nearly 45% of the female population in the U.S., I reach out my arms and my prayers in solidarity and affection. Our lives matter, too. As for me, I’m going to spend some time out on my deck watching a red geranium grow and remembering my mom. I’m hoping for a day of blessings, too; a day of blessings for all women everywhere. It is Spring, the sun is going to shine, and life is oh, so good! Happy Day! Happy Day!