Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Reinventing Mother's Day

My relationship with Mother's Day is one that is hot and cold. When I was little, I remember getting up early and making my mother breakfast in bed. Mom always talks about how proud I was of the burnt toast that was saturated with jelly as I watched her eat every bite. I loved making Mother's Day cards at school because I knew my mom would love and keep every one of them (she's a sentimental pack rat). Perhaps the most memorable Mother's Day was when I was about 14 years old. My father and brother were on some kind of trip (where I don't remember) so it was just me and my mom. We decided to take the train to San Francisco and do some shopping. We didn't buy anything, but we had a wonderful time together.

The funniest Mother's Day story I have is from when I was teaching fourth grade. I decided to have my students decoupage vases and make flowers. So I asked every child to bring a class bottle or jar from home. I should have been more specific in my instructions and asked them to at least rinse out the bottles. A handful of students showed up the next morning with Corona bottles, pints of Mickey's and bottles of Johnny Walker Red Label, some of which still had the contents in them. Even when I had the kids clean out the bottles, my classroom still smelled like a frat party. The vases did turn out really well, though...especially those made with the Mickey's bottles.

After Ebo and I were married and were starting to talk about children, I began to have a different relationship with Mother's Day. One year as they were handing out roses at church, the usher tried to give one to me. "No, thank you," I said, "I'm not a mother." The usher replied, "That's okay. Take one anyway." I began to wonder whether or not I would ever be able to legitimately have a rose. Would I always be the woman who would "take one anyway"?

Four years ago, I celebrated my first Mother's Day as a mom. I was almost at the end of my first trimester with Sassy Girl and people were beginning to notice that I was pregnant. Everyone was contratulating me and encouraging me to stand up during mass when the priest asked for all the moms to stand up. I didn't feel like standing. I didn't feel like a mom. I was happy about our IVF success, but I was scared that it was all going to be taken away from me somehow. Furthermore, because of my experience with infertility, I knew there was probably someone in that congregation that was in pain because she wanted to be a mom, too.

Since then, Ebo and I have tried to be low-key about Mother's Day. I don't expect flowers, brunches, or jewelry. Cards are even optional. On that day, I don't want to do anything but spend time with my family. This past Sunday marked my best Mother's Day as a mom. When I woke up, Ebo and the kids walked me downstairs to a bowl of cereal and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Like my father did with my brother and me many years ago, Ebo had our kids make breakfast. I was told later that Sassy Girl poured the cereal by herself Destructo Boy ate more jelly than went on my toast. It was the best breakfast I have ever eaten.

We spent most of the afternoon at a nearby state park. We got dirty, played in the river, and layed out in the sun. I couldn't have asked for anything more perfect. Yet amidst all of my joy I felt a little guilty. Because I have been part of the infertility community, I know how hard this holiday is for some. Mother's Day used to be a reminder of what I possibly would never have. A part of me will always feel that pain.

This year, though, my kids reminded me of the happier moments of past Mother's Days. Celebrating with my own mother was just as important for me as it was for her. The memory of the pride my fourth grade students had in their decoupaged booze bottles will always make me smile. I hope that as a mother, I can make happy Mother's Day memories for Sassy Girl and Destructo Boy.