Mother’s Day was never really a thing in the Cooperman family –
– my mom often said that if you only made a fuss of your mother because of a holiday pumped up with weep-inducing commercials designed to sell crap, you were kinda missing the point.
It’s not that my mom didn’t appreciate being appreciated; as far as Paulette was concerned, if we wanted to make a fuss over her, she’d gladly accept. Anytime. Whether it was a thoughtful note, present, or a card for no reason; an invitation to brunch (or lunch or dinner) that came outta the blue, or day spent wandering around a favorite town where we’d pop into stores to point out gaudy jewelry and clothes we would never, ever wear, giggling: Uniquely you!
But there were no Mother’s Day traditions in the Cooperman house. On Mother’s Day, she was happy to skip the crowded brunch spots and just have her usual breakfast of coffee and yogurt at home.
My mom died in March of 2004, and while it’s hard to miss the tribute posts on social media around Mother’s Day, the day doesn’t hold any special challenges for me. And I suspect I am not alone in the world of the motherless.
Mother’s Day is simply another reminder in a long series of reminders we live with.
Still, it’s hard not to feel a little wistful when the marketing extravaganza that is Mother’s Day is upon us.
But feelings of grief aren’t prompted by the calendar. Sometimes they rise up for no reason. You’ll hear a song. You’ll smell her perfume. You’ll have a family get-together, and her absence will be painfully obvious. You’ll make one of her signature dishes. Something fabulous will happen in your life and you’ll think: I wish I could tell Mom about this. (or, like me: you’ll see a piece of jewelry she would have loved-to-hate, and you’ll say out loud to no one listening: uniquely you!)
But the bottom line? Loss and grief don’t magically happen on holidays – Hallmark or otherwise – and they sure as shit don’t have an expiration date.
I remembering running into a friend a month or so after my mother died. When she asked how I was doing, I told her I was still feeling foggy; still breaking down at odd times, and having trouble sleeping. She nodded, but I could see a kind of quizzical look on her face. Then she said: … and … uh … work? How’re things going there?
I nearly froze. I forgot that the world kept spinning for other people when it had largely stopped for me. I forgot that “how’re you doing?” wasn’t always a real question, and that for people not IN grief, there was kind of an expiration date on talking about loss.
And it sucks. It sucks big. And there’s nothing you can do to make it go away faster.
When you’re in it, you want to talk about it as long as you want to talk about it. Some people won’t want to listen, but you’ll quickly learn which ones will, and which ones would rather know how things are going at work. (note: this doesn’t make them wrong or bad. it just makes them the ones you don’t go to when you hit a wall.)
But when there’s no one around and you’ve hit a wall? There’s a bright side (of sorts) in this shitty, shitty experience: you can always write it out. And it will help. (you knew this was coming, right?) (of course you did.)
Because no matter how you’re feeling: journaling will always welcome you, and it will never tell you that it’s time to move on.
You can write, and vent and cry and tell stories and bitch and cry some more.
Or you can write about the time you were in a boutique, and held up one of the gaudiest shirts you’d ever seen to show your mom: Uniquely you! at the exact moment that a saleswoman was passing by. And how that saleswoman stopped and said: Your daughter’s right; that would look wonderful on you! And how you both had to stifle your giggles until you left the store … and when you did, you peed a little because you were laughing so hard.
Write it all out. Seriously, write that shit out.
And may I suggest that this Mother’s Day: if you’re motherless, write a letter to your mom anyway. Tell her what you miss; what you’ve accomplished with her help; what you appreciate (particularly stuff you might not have appreciated while she was still here), and all the things that come to mind when you put pen to page.
And if your mom is still around, I double-down on that suggestion. Don’t just buy a card. Don’t just take her to brunch. Write her a note. Tell her why she’s awesome. Create your own weep-worthy Hallmark moment. (and if your relationship is troubled, you could write just for yourself. write about what you’ve gained/how you’ve grown in spite of [or because of] the challenges …)
To all of you who are doing Mother’s Day without your mom, I’m sending good vibes. ‘Specially those who are doing it for the first time. (i’m specifically thinking of marybeth‘s daughters … and her mom: spending her first mother’s day without her youngest. all the love …)
Happy every-day, as much as you can.