Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Mother's day: sentimentality is acceptable

In a gift-giving transaction more mainstream than I normally like to operate, I am sending my mother chocolate for Mother's Day. (I am also giving her a fancier gift, but that only involves me sending my brother money and him taking care of things, since he is older and therefore more capable of such endeavors.) The chocolates have centers made from real Alaskan wildberries, so that's cool, since my mom will probably like the idea of it.

But as I was purchasing the candies, I realized that I really have no idea whether or not my mother even likes chocolate. We always had a bowl of miniature candy bars sitting on the kitchen counter, but I think these were more for my stepfather.

So many years living with and knowing the woman, and I don't even know this somewhat basic detail.

When I went to the post office to send the chocolates, the graying old hippy with long hair and the worst teeth I've ever seen told me I needed a haircut. He didn't seem to be joking. Why would he say such a thing? Not even my mother tells me that.

Garrison Keilor has written a wonderful ode to Mother's Day. He makes many strikingly relevant insights:
Mothers were, at one time, young women with Possibilities who might have taken a different route and become glamorous and powerful figures in Size 2 dresses and instead found themselves cleaning up excrement and jiggling colicky babies to get them to stop screaming. They hardly ever get to London anymore or have time to read James Joyce. They sit down to dinner with adults and feel brain-dead. A bouquet of flowers hardly seems compensation enough. How about a million dollars and a house in the south of France?
He's right. How can I think chocolates, even Alaskan chocolates, are enough?

And I can't help but wonder if my mother's life would have turned out differently if she hadn't become a mother.

Keillor muses that his mother
might've modeled evening gowns at Dayton's Sky Room and maybe been spotted by a Hollywood scout and wound up in pictures, playing the village girl who charms the world-weary tycoon stranded in Littleville by the blizzard. Instead, she became a suburban pioneer, making a home in a muddy cornfield, putting up the stewed tomatoes and canned beans every fall, raising six children, slogging through bouts of mumps and flu, whomping up big Christmases, fishing the laundry out of the washing machine and putting it through the wringer and hanging it on the line.
Though I do not know whether my mother likes chocolate and I cannot know how her life would have been different without me, I can rest soundly in my belief that she was a woman who loved being a mother. She was always there, always, and not once did I hear her complain about how life could have been.

She deserves thanks every day. Keillor writes, "You entered this cold world causing her more pain than she thought possible and now she won't ever give up on you." And he's right.

I don't call or write as much as I should. But she knows how I feel.

And if she doesn't, I'm sure those Alaskan chocolates will clue her in. I even sent a card. It's big and unfolds into multiple pages, because more pages equal more love. And it rhymes, because rhymes are the language of love.

I know it isn't enough, and can't be enough, but because she is a good mother, it somehow is.

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