I’m at a retreat center. I arrived Thursday afternoon and until about 7 Friday night, I had the place nearly to myself. I came for concentrated time to write without the tug of my 3-year-old grandson, without the tug of all the ways I can distract my own self.
But last night, they started filing in — adult daughters and their mothers. I knew they were coming — 24 of them, I was told — but I hadn’t expected the sight of them to sting a bit.
These women, these adult daughters, still had their moms.
My mom died nearly 11 years ago. Mostly I miss holding her hand. I remember what that felt like, her skin soft and cool, her hand plump, not bony.
I miss hearing her say, “Oh baby,” whether I burned a pot roast (because when she was alive I might have actually been making a pot roast) or I was dealing with something that really mattered.
A couple of days ago, my 23-year-old daughter and I were screaming at each other — each wanting the other to understand, each wanting to be heard. I know I was swearing, that I shouted “fuck” or “fucking” or both. Probably both. I hated myself for it, but not in the moment.
The next day we cried and hugged and laughed and made up. We vowed to try and do better next time.
Our relationship is like that.
My kids — my daughter and her big brother — didn’t get the perfect mom. For their formative years I tried to be. I baked cookies with them. Decorated Easter eggs. Hunted for Christmas trees together. Let them play in the mud and eat sand. I put meals on the table that had green stuff in them. I played catch. I played Barbies. I went to every sporting event and music concert and many a practice.
I made sure they had what they needed when they needed it.
But even though I was with them physically, I was often somewhere else in my head. I didn’t want to be, but I was. I was mostly thinking about writing, about being alone somewhere without distractions, writing.
I looked like a good mom, but I didn’t feel like one.
I learned the definition of “perfect” mom from my own mom — not because she was perfect, but because when she wasn’t consumed by alcoholism, she did her best to be that perfect mom.
I think her struggle in life had a lot to do with trying to live a life she really didn’t want — the life of being a perfect mom. A perfect person.
There was little that I didn’t tell my mom, but there was also much I wanted to say but didn’t.
Mother’s Day is tomorrow. My children may or may not remember. There won’t be any lavish gifts, I’m sure of that. Likely no cards. They’re not those kids, and while I used to relish a good Hallmark holiday, I’m mostly not that person anymore.
While I’d love a box of dark chocolates (caramels, too, please) and/or a mushy card telling me how wonderful I am (especially if they wrote it themselves), I mostly just want them to think of me — and if they smile, that would be a bonus.
And one day, when I’ve left the planet, and they’re somewhere and someone or something reminds them of me, I hope they’ll wish they had one more day — one more ordinary day — with me… their crazy, imperfect mom.