…Hallmark’s emotional landmine.
Yeah, I’m going to do what I do best. I’m going down south to the depths of sadness and despair. You know, where I shit on the good feels because that is EXACTLY what I do best. BUT, I do it with such flair and style so it’s okay, right? I hasten to add the following isn’t coming from an ungrateful or selfish place at all. It comes from the place where Kang’s heart and brain spends most of its time; in the land of the overlooked and forgotten. The Island of Misfit Toys, if you please.
Motherhood is something we should celebrate. If one thinks about the process of falling in and out of love, the manic highs and the soul crushing lows – how the euphoria of being in love makes you feel giddy, drunk and sparkly and the trauma of rejection and a broken heart makes you feel like throwing yourself in front of a train – is so powerful and overwhelming, love cannot touch motherhood with a ten foot pole on the emotional scale. It is, beyond the shadow of a doubt, the best gift a woman can receive.
Or maybe that’s simply my perspective formed after battling infertility for well over a decade. A battle so consuming it resulted in my locking myself away from all things baby: no baby showers, no visiting new babies, refusing to hold freshly arrived bundles of joy because I knew I would fall apart knowing that I was resigned to a life of not being a mom. And while I would walk around and try to convince others I was comfortable with my fate, people who barely knew me would, rightfully, tell me otherwise. I hated them. After one last futile attempt to procreate, I decided to do what any irrational human would do: I bought a really expensive car. Seven months later, I was pregnant without any assistance. As the saying goes “Man plans; God laughs.” Woman commits to spending an obscene amount of money; Flying Spaghetti Monster says “Oh, I didn’t realize you thought you were rich. Let me give you something to actually deplete your finances.”
So, there’s landmine number one: Mother’s Day for the women who can’t [be mothers] but desperately want to. It’s awful. If they manage to get out of bed, be kind to them. If they are crying, don’t ask why. Just hold them, comfort them and if she has a proclivity for shoes, shiny objects or something material that you deem silly, buy it for her. Distract her. Mourn with her. Support her. My perspective: don’t take her out to brunch, lunch or dinner. There are too many happy (appearing) families outside. Seeing smiling face upon smiling face enjoying family fun time is akin to being riddled with a billion bullet holes and then having someone try to soothe the wounds with salt. Just. Don’t.
Landmine number two: those who don’t have relationships with their mothers or those who have very difficult relationships with their mothers.
Do not judge for you are not a mental health professional with a full work-up of a patient. You do not know why a relationship failed. You do not understand why things could be more difficult for some than others. Humans are weird, nonsensical and often disappointing. Alternatively, humans do the best they can with what they have and sometimes, their proverbial tool boxes aren’t fully stocked with all they need to get through life. The end result is usually a giant ball of pain. And this ball is like those pink, rubber balls: you throw it as hard and as far as you can, yet the little bastard always comes back (like the cat in the camp song, if you please) and pegs you squarely in the face.
On a day when people are celebrating, sending flowers and schmaltzy cards to their mothers, there is a group of people out there who aren’t. Some of them are thinking “Phew! Bullet dodged!” Some of them may be thinking “Yeah, this doesn’t feel the greatest. I wish I had a mommy to talk to when the shitstorm hit and I left my shitstorm umbrella at home.” There are others who are likely feeling the combination of both. What do you do on a day when it’s all about mom and you don’t have one? What do you do when your experiences and memories aren’t those made for maudlin, feel good, family television sitcoms? It must be a very isolating experience like being alone on Thanksgiving, Christmas or Assholian Valentine’s Day®. Sure, you can find your substitute moms, those who stepped up and assumed the responsibility out of the kindness of their hearts, but it’s just not the same. It never is. It never will be.
Landmine number three: those whose mothers have died.
This is one I cannot even relate to. Thank goodness my mother is still here. Sincerely. Yes, there may have been times in my adolescence where I have cursed her very existence out of general teenage angst. There were instances in young adulthood when I didn’t appreciate what I have. I haven’t lost Carole. I’m fucking lucky and I know this. As the years go on, I thank the Great Flying Spaghetti Monster for keeping all of my parents (biological, step, host, Kate’s) on this planet for me to love and take for granted.
I remember when Carole’s mother (my maternal grandmother) passed away quite clearly thanks to my freakish memory which annoys the hell out of everyone. It was Spring Break of 1992, my last semester of Kolludge. I had just arrived back in Philly from Beffalo (yes, Beffalo – there was a buffalo/cow hybrid farm down the road from Kolludge) State University full of nothing of substance and a desire to continue chain smoking cigarettes and swilling shit beer. My mother was in no mood for my inanity which was not unusual. What was unusual was the reason.
Her mother, who was in her 80s, had fallen ill and was in the hospital. A flurry of activity was taking place, largely via phone. My stepfather, ever supportive of mom, was trying to figure out the fastest way to get from Philly to Pittsburgh. He mentioned chartering a plane for her. My stepfather’s love for my mother is so strong that if he could figure out a way to build a time machine and preserve everything for her, I have no doubt in my mind that he would do exactly that. Within a few hours, my grandmother had passed. And, aside from the recollection of my stepfather’s intense efforts to help mom get to Pittsburgh, my strongest recollection of that night was my mother’s crying in the kitchen and hearing the words “I’m an orphan.” It may seem that I’m slightly detached from my grandmother’s death as I write this. I’m not. It was painful. That said, through that entire ordeal, there was nothing as painful as seeing my mother cry, hearing those words, watching an accomplished, strong, ferocious woman become a very sad, little girl in our kitchen and knowing there was no possible way I could provide any measure of comfort what-so-ever.
On Mother’s Day, I think of my friends, my family and others who have lost their mothers and can only imagine the pain. Memories are great but, let’s face it, they’re not the same as holding your mother’s hand, hearing her voice or getting a peck on the head from her.
Landmine number four: mothers whose children have died.
For what is a Mother’s Day without your child? Fucking hell. Anniversary of the death of said child aside, is there a worse day of the year to be a mother than Mother’s Day?
It comes as no surprise to anyone who knows me that I have handled Kate’s death with the grace and dignity of a three year old who has been told the word “No.” I will neither apologize nor make excuses for my grief, either. My best friend, my soul mate is dead. She’s not coming back and there isn’t a fucking thing I can do about it. And while I try to do one uniquely Kate thing every day to celebrate her, I’m still really fucking angry and hurt. I don’t know that there will come a day when grief isn’t a dominating force in my life. The only thing I can say is that I have accepted this and I manage the emotions better than I used to. That’s the best I can hope for in my particular case.
I look at Milkface and all of the joy he brings me. How he makes the worst days infinitely better with a hug, a smile, a silly joke or a story about his day. I think about how lucky I am to be his mother. My favorite part of the day is when I pick him up from school so I can see him again. Milkface is definitely my favorite human.
Then, I think of Kate’s parents.
Kate’s parents aren’t just “parents.” They’re not just two amazing people who did everything right and raised two brilliant, successful, good human beings. They’re not just accomplished professionals who worked very hard throughout their entire lives. They’re not simply good pillars in their community. To me, they’re the model to follow in life.
To think of Kate’s mom on this day of all days gives me a massive case of the sads. I understand she is not alone – that she’s a member of a shitty club no one wishes to belong to and everyone would reject membership to if remotely possible. Moms who lost infants, children who were young, adult children – it doesn’t matter. The pain is the pain. It’s not one I’m sure I’m emotionally sound enough to endure, either. I’d sooner throw myself on the funeral pyre than outlive my child. And no, I’m not being dramatic, either.
So, as I find myself doing on most holidays, Hallmark or non/bullshit or legitimate, my mind wanders to those who may not be having the most celebratory of days. Those who may be feeling a bit lost, certainly blue and in need of a hug (like my bewildered friend in Borås). And because I’m hopelessly drawn to wanting to fix emotional boo-boos, I get frustrated because I don’t have that particular magic wand that makes everything all better. I lack that certain magical kiss to make the ouchies go away. Instead, I hide behind my words and hope that they make their way to the eyes of the right person who needs to know that in spite of the pain and the shittiness and the unfairness that is life, there is someone who gets that this day may not be “all that,” who recognizes that life is a bit messier than we had hoped it would be and happens to have a giant box of Kleenex and a huge pile of stuffed animals for snuggling.
It’s not a condemnation of holidays or celebrations – more so a reminder to be grateful for what it is we have and mindful of those who may not be as fortunate or may be struggling.