From <em>National Geographic</em>
I pictured myself carried aloft on a golden litter, not unlike Cleopatra.
My expectations used to be higher for Mother’s Day. When I was a young mother with only small children, I believed the world should stop for the mid-May holiday. In the weeks leading up to Mother’s Day, I would dream of doing nothing. I’ll get to sit and read the Sunday paper with my coffee, I thought to myself. No laundry. No dishes. We’ll go out to eat. I pictured myself carried aloft on a golden litter, not unlike Cleopatra, while Jack and the kids fanned me with ostrich plumes and offered me sweet, cool things to drink.
Not surprisingly, I was always disappointed. Jack tried. He generally scheduled a meal at a semi-nice restaurant. He said things like, “Don’t get up. I’ll change Rebecca’s [or Angela’s or Lucy’s or Johnny’s or Ben’s] diaper.” But with so many children in such rapid succession, one pair of hands was never enough to take care of everything. I always ended up doing at least one load of laundry or cleaning the kitchen or performing some other menial chore far beneath Cleopatra’s dignity.
“Happy friggin’ Mother’s Day,” I would grumble to myself as I mopped spilled milk out of the van’s back seat.
Sometime in the past few years, I abandoned the idea of a labor-free Mother’s Day. I decided to assume it was an ordinary Sunday and be happy with the extra appreciation that came my way. Last Sunday, Jack let me sleep in. He let me sleep in as much as anyone can sleep in at my house. The rest of the family awoke around 7:00 and tromped downstairs. I lay under the covers and listened to the general commotion. Just as I had drifted back to sleep, Johnny opened the bedroom door and crept across the carpet. He lifted the covers and snuggled in next to me. “Are you awake, Mom?” he whispered.
“I am now,” I answered. Johnny snuggled closer.
A few minutes later, Jack followed Johnny into the room. “I told you not to bug Mom,” he scolded.
That’s okay,” I told him. “I should get up anyway.”
“He does this every time I try to sleep in, too,” Jack reminded me.
“I know. He likes to snuggle.”
We went to Mass. We sat with my mom. The deacon who gave the homily spoke about love and commitment and sacrifice. I thought about all the times I had not appreciated my own mother when I was growing up — all the love and commitment and sacrifice I had taken for granted. I was happy we had both lived long enough for me to understand and value and love her the way that I do now.
After Mass, we went home for a half hour before we had to leave for brunch. I drank my coffee and read the paper. I opened Jack’s gift to me, a digital camera. “This is great,” he explained. “You’ll be able to take pictures of the kids. Maybe you can use it for some of your writing assignments.”
I thanked him. Rebecca asked, “Do you want the rest of your presents now or at the restaurant?”
“At the restaurant. Then Grandma and I can open them at the same time.”
We drove from our home in San Marcos toward the coast. We met my mom at Karl Strauss Brewery in Carlsbad. “What? You want to drink beer on Mother’s Day?” a friend had asked when I told her where we were going.
“No. It’s just a nice restaurant, and I’m guessing we won’t have to fight the crowds like we did last year at Acapulco.”
I was right. The food was good, the service fast and kid-friendly. I sat next to my mom, and we opened our gifts. Lucy had made me a card and painted a flowerpot at school. She and her class had composed a poem made up of the answers to the question, “What is a mother?” Lucy pointed out her two contributions: “A mother gave birth to me” and “A mother is a lady who takes care of me and she loves me and I love her.”
Angela made me a card. Johnny made me a jar of bath salts. Ben gave me a card he had scribbled at preschool. Rebecca produced a box of homemade chocolate-covered strawberries and a green, hand-sewn cinnamon and clove sachet with a red grosgrain ribbon.
I gave my mom her card. She opened her gifts from the kids. We all ate. Johnny and Ben did their best not to jump down from the table. We only spilled one drink.
When we got home, I took a nap on the living room couch. Then I went shopping at Costco all by myself. I pushed my giant cart up and down the long aisles without the constant pestering that usually accompanies my Costco trips. No “Mom, can we get a giant box of Gummi Bears?” or “Mom, can we get peanut butter pretzels?” No “We never get anything good,” after I’ve spent $216 on food for the week.
After a dinner of Costco chicken and enchiladas and spinach salad (none of which I had to prepare myself), Jack and I got the kids ready for bed. As I kissed Angela good night, she asked, “Mom, did you have a good Mother’s Day?”
“I had a great Mother’s Day, sweetie. Thank you for everything.”
I really meant it.