Sunday, May 12, 2013

Pondering the flip side of Mother's Day

I've never been a fan of the manufactured holiday. Valentine's Day, Mother's Day, Father's Day, whatever so-called Day it may be, I can't get past visions of the mad rush to buy stuff, any stuff, to raid the card section, bring home something, anything, to avoid the stigma of non-recognition, the shame of empty-handedness.

The avalanche of printed, broadcast and electronic flyers and ads would have us believe that these Days are all about stuff. That we're in the good books if we obtain stuff. And to a certain extent, the unseen faces behind the avalanche are right. Try not bringing something home on a day like today and see what happens. With few exceptions, it likely wouldn't be pretty.

But here's the thing: this year's Mother's Day, at least in our house, isn't remotely about stuff. It's about the things we can no longer have. Like time. Or each other.

It's my wife's first Mother's Day without her mom. And as I wrote on the first Father's Day without my dad (here), it's a day that has undertones never anticipated long ago by the denizens of Hallmark whose only interest was - and clearly still is - selling more cards and related uselessness. They, and if we're being honest, we, forget the dark side of a day like today. They ignore the impact of limitless commercialism on folks who may no longer have their parents around. It's like rubbing salt into a wound, and it makes the process harder than it needs to be.

But who am I to stand in the way of profit?

This morning, the kids woke up early and fetched me as quietly as they could. We fed the dog, gave him his insulin and brought him outside. We made my wife breakfast, loaded it onto a tray and and tiptoed upstairs. We sat on the bed with her and tried to keep the dog from shnarfing her bagel. The phone rang, and when she got off the phone with her dad, the room was suddenly very quiet.

Every day is a special Day to my wife, and every day is an opportunity to both honor and connect with the important folks who helped shape her. She doesn't need a holiday or an avalanche of flyers to remind her what she has, or what she's lost. We don't need a holiday to gather around her and remind her that she's the center of our universe. And she doesn't need a day like today to remind her of the calls she can no longer make. It'll be just as stark and raw tomorrow as it is today.

Maybe we'll do breakfast in bed for her next weekend, too. Just because.


Kalei's Best Friend said...

I totally agree with you on this... When I worked retail we (employees) would watch the harried customers... the desperation in one man who told the clerk ' just pick out anything for me'.... I will tell you that I appreciate the unexpected gifts most of all.. the 'just because' or 'I saw this'.... My kids cards I still have as well as other things they have written.. and yes, I still tear up reading them. Its a shame people have to be reminded w/Hallmark, endless restaurant coupons advertising their 'supposed' great Mother's Day meals... Just because is the best way to go!

Unknown said...

Hi, Carmi:

First of all, my best to your wife. My Jen braved this holiday last year under the same circumstances.

I know this holiday is purely commercial and, for those off us who are still dealing with the vacancies at our tables, sometimes seeming rude and uncaring. But I know too many folks who truly do need the annual rhythm, the yellow highlight mark on the calendar, to remind them they need to take the time to celebrate the people in their life. Without that ritual reminder, we'd remain insulated, automatic, impulsive, unaware of the universe's rotation around something other than ourselves.

And yes, I know Mother's Day was created to sell greeting cards. Thing is, our culture needs the assistance to make the effort. Not all individuals have our hearts and minds in the right place. This holiday is society's reminder to itself, our wake-up call, society being kinder to us than we would be for ourselves.

For me, this day is a reminder of someone who made impossible sacrifices for me, that I might even exist. Although I can't hug Mom anymore, I can still demonstrate my gratitude through devotion to the other people she loved.


Judy said...

Getting through the first year of holidays after a loss is very difficult...sometimes it takes many years...and any advice given is usually so generic that any benefit is useless...society does not think of this any more than any other just expects us to buck up and carry on...all we can do is try...