I had a hard time waking up on Mother’s Day. I’d been up until 12:30 a.m. folding laundry. With five children aged eight and younger, we generate a lot of dirty clothes. Every week, I start the laundry on Thursday. I do a couple of loads of darks and a load of blights in between driving Rebecca, Angela, and Lucy to school, running errands, or meeting a girlfriend and her kids at a park for lunch. When I remove each load from the dryer, I lay the clothes flat and smooth out the wrinkles. I carry the piles of unfolded laundry into the living room and lay them on the couch. Friday, I finish the blights and wash the mediums. Saturday morning, I wash the whites. By Saturday night, unfolded piles cover both living room couches.
Every now and then, my husband Jack will look at the laundry piles with a jaundiced eye. “ I can’t fold the clothes when the kids are around,” I explain. “I get interrupted too often. I have to pick up Ben or Johnny starts messing up the clothes I’ve already folded.” Ben and Johnny are eight months and almost three years, respectively.
“I could help you,” Jack offers.
“That’s okay.” I never let Jack help with the laundry. He doesn’t fold things the right way, meaning he doesn’t fold things the way I fold them.
Saturday night before Mother’s Day, I carried the piles into the family room so I could watch TV. I started folding about 10:30.1 placed each item into the appropriate pile: Rebecca shirts, Angela pants, Lucy dresses, Johnny pajamas, Benjamin socks. By the time I finished, I had a patchwork of various-sized piles plus the clothes that needed to be put on hangers. At midnight, I sat on a stool between the couch and the coffee table sorting the whites: five different sizes of kids’ socks. Jack’s socks, my socks, everybody’s underwear, T-shirts, the white uniform shirts Rebecca and Angela wear to school. Jack emerged from our home office where he’d been working on the computer. He surveyed the landscape of folded clothes. “Why don’t you finish this tomorrow,” Jack said.
“Because tomorrow’s Mother’s Day," I answered. “I’m not going to fold laundry on Mother’s Day.”
I stored the kids’ socks in the sock drawers Jack installed in our downstairs hallway. The rest of the laundry I packed into two oversized laundry baskets. Jack carried them upstairs. We each put away our own clothes. “I’ll put the kids’ clothes away later,” I told him.
We fell into bed a little after 12:30. I have vague memories of getting up to nurse Ben around 1:30. Angela called out and needed to go to the bathroom at 4:30. At 5:30, Ben woke again. I brought Ben into Jack’s and my bed and nursed him back to sleep. At 6:30,1 heard the rustle of tissue paper and felt something being thrust into my face.
“Happy Mother’s Day, Mommy."
I struggled to open one eye. Angela, who is six, stood beside the bed. She smiled a sleepy, angelic smile. “I made this at school for you,” she explained and poked my cheek with the comer of the package.
“Just a minute, sweetie,” I croaked. My other eye wouldn’t open. I felt as though I’d been drugged. Ben lolled across my body where he’d fallen asleep nursing. “I’ll open your present in just a minute.” .
I heard Rebecca, who is eight, thump down the hall followed by four-year-old Lucy. Johnny lay curled up beside Jack on the other side of the bed. I closed my eye and drifted into a dream about driving to the Grand Canyon.
“Mommy,” Angela’s voice cut into the dream. “Are you going to open your present?”
“Mm-hmm. Just give me a minute."
While I inched Ben off my belly, the girls started singing “Happy Mother’s Day to you” to the tune of the Happy Birthday song. Ben’s eyes popped open. He smiled. Johnny rolled over and gurgled, “Pappy Mudder’s Day.” The girls laughed. Jack threw his arm over and ruffled my hair. “Happy Mother’s Day, sweetie.”
I sat up halfway and propped myself against the headboard with a few pillows. I took the package from Angela’s hands. She’d hand-colored the wrapping paper hearts and flowers and an “I love you. Mom” in the middle. I carefully removed the paper to reveal a picture of a perfect rose colored with markers and glitter glue and an eggshell mosaic of a nature scene.
“These are beautiful, Angela,” I told her. “Did you make them yourself?”
“I colored the rose picture. And I put the eggshells on the other picture all by myself." A few eggshells fell onto the comforter.
“I can’t believe it. They’re so beautiful.” Angela leaned over, and I gave her a long hug.
Rebecca handed me her package next. She’d made a newsletter. The headline read, “ ‘Mom of the Year’ Awarded to Anne Albright.” A few weeks before Mother’s Day, Rebecca had interviewed me for “a writing assignment.” She’d written up the results of the interview and attached a photo of the two of us taken when she was a baby. I read the “article” out loud. Jack and I laughed at the funny parts. When I came to the end, “Reported with love by Rebecca Elizabeth Albright,” I paused.
“Are you crying. Mom?” Angela asked.
“Yes, I am,” I answered.