As I write this, Facebook is plastered with images of people's moms, making silly faces, or posing with old muscle cars, or caught quietly reflecting next to a bookcase in really nice light.
This visual Mother's Day parade of love has me feeling weird and sad. Many of us have lost mothers. Some have died, others have drifted. Some are physically nearby, yet emotionally far and others took off, never to be heard from again.
As much as I'd love to believe the concept of Mother is a static one — an idea of warmth and nurturing, of laughter and kindness, of enduring presence — at some point, we all have to make peace with the fact that the woman who brought us into the world is an individual with her own history, her own dreams, her own fears and questions, and her own mother.
When you lose a mother, something happens to your insides, a primal piece of you goes missing. It's as if the chain of an anchor you didn't even realize you were tethered to has been broken, and you're drifting free. It can feel freeing and terrifying in the same moment.
When my stepmom MaryJane died, it took two full years to sink in. I'd be watching a British detective show and think, "I should ask her if she's seen this one." Then I'd remember. That kind of thing happens anytime someone is gone, but losing a person who'd been loving and guiding me since I was a child felt different from losing a friend. Answers to certain questions, stories you'd not yet asked to hear, adventures you'd planned to take together — those are all lost.
The trick, I suppose, to keeping your head above water and learning from that loss is to remember her, and make sure you ask for the stories and the answers and the adventures from the people who are still at hand.
I miss MaryJane. I wish I could tell her I'm sorry I cried when she filled a pair of pantyhose with soaps and nuts and oranges for my Christmas stocking, because now I think it's hilarious. I wish I could tell her I number pages in a handwritten letter the same way she does, that I've never stopped loving British mysteries, that I wish I'd been a more grateful child to her. I wish I could tell her I wouldn't be the person I am today if she hadn't come along when she did. I wish I could ask her about what she remembers of her own mother, a woman she lost when she was only seven. How did that loss affect her? Did she have someone else in her life that subbed in as a mother, like she did for me?
I'd also like to ask her a zillion mundane questions, the kinds you ask a mother, questions about finances, and building a nice home, and how to make that sourdough French toast she made because every other French toast in the world pales in comparison.
I guess I just wanted to take a minute and acknowledge the folks out there who were feeling somber on Mother's Day, and remind them — and myself — that we're not alone. Having a mother can sometimes be tough; losing one, or never really having had one is also hard. Those of you who have happy, healthy, present mothers — give them an extra hug from the rest of us. Your mommas are making the world a little better for everybody.