“The heart ?of a mother ?is a deep abyss? at the bottom of ?which you will always find forgiveness.”
-Honore de Balzac, ?French playwright
I was barely 19 on my first Mother’s Day when I snuggled my 4-month- old daughter and knew there was no greater gift in the world than a child. Many years and two children later, I looked forward to their Mother’s Day fingerpaintings of smudgy blue hand prints, adorable misspelled, handwritten cards, and flower buds in tiny painted pots. Old, curled and yellowing scrawled notes still decorate my refrigerator. As my children grew toward adulthood, I received simple store-bought gifts, promises of chores, and once, a recorded song written for me. I welcomed all these gestures. Except one.
Somewhere in Mother’s Day history, someone cooked up “breakfast in bed,” and like most of America, I went along with it. We did this for my mother, and my kids did it for me. The scene includes seemingly hours of sitting in bed waiting (can’t people get bedsores from that?) while giggles and whispers from the kitchen, very cute for the first 20 minutes, erupt into shouts. But instructed to “Stay there, Mommy,” Mom sits in bed starving, caffeine-deprived, developing leg cramps and listening to an hour of pans dropping, liquid-swishing sounds followed by “Oh, NO! Grab a towel, stupid head,” the smash-clatter of what unfortunately sounds like one’s grandmother’s 1930s china platter, gasps, crying, and finally, finally (where is the Dad all this time, building a new kitchen out back?) a gentle male voice, “Why don’t we …”
Eventually, breakfast appears accompanied by gleeful little children. In my house, I deserved an Oscar for my acting. “No, really. I love my toast that way. Such a whole-grain look.” Talk about your relaxing day. The rack, anyone? I won’t mention the condition of said kitchen, left as the next surprise for Mommy.
It is a universal fact that Mother’s Day is a mixed bag for mothers, no matter what point in life. I made this up and that’s how I know it’s true. Media hype promotes flowers and commercial cards that talk or do cartwheels. What do mothers really want?
In my friend’s faraway native country, Mother’s Day is also a big deal. “Flowers, gifts, take-out food, all that.” She leans in closely. “Cash,” she whispers adamantly. “That’s what mothers really want and that’s what we give. Cash.” She nods for emphasis.
I phone my oldest daughter who’s in her late 30s to find out what she wants for Mother’s Day. She’s constantly busy, taxiing her kids to lessons and activities, working and volunteering.
“A day when I’m pampered. Breakfast out.”
“Nice,” I say, picturing her little family happily diving into stacks of pancakes.
“At a fancy restaurant.”
“By myself. With a good book.”
“Then,” she continues, “I’d go to a spa for a massage, manicure, pedicure and facial. Yes,” she drifts off, “… a facial.”
That’s quite a
“And then out to lunch with my girlfriends. And a trip to the bookstore, coffee out, and shopping!”
“Um,” I interrupt, “are we still talking about the same day?”
“Yes,” she snaps, in that What’s-Wrong-With-You way. “That would only take up part of the day.”
I get comfortable. She’s on a roll.
“Then, another coffee, or wait, the new tea place that’s opened.”
“When would you snuggle with” I begin.
“Then? I’d get an early dinner, nothing fancy, maybe crabmeat on a bed of lettuce, a glass of white”
All right. Now I know she’s totally in a fantasy world, or putting me on, because she’s a vegetarian.
“wine. And chocolate mousse for dessert, but just a small one because”
She pauses. I’m listening for her infectious giggle, which doesn’t happen.
“because then I’d need to catch the early show at the movies and I wouldn’t want to be too full for popcorn.” (I know she’s “high energy.” But this is crazy, even for a fictitious day.) “And when I got home, there would be my husband and the kids with cards and hugs and surprises for me,” she concludes.
There is a very long silence.
Back on the planet Reality, she concludes, “Mother’s Day? Hmmm. I love homemade cards and lots of hugs and snuggles.”
I get that, and it sends me in a gentle mind-spin. Memories – of making cartoon books for my Mom, taking her to lunch, small voices calling me to say, “Happy Mother’s Day, Gwandma!”
On Mother’s Day, mothers want anything that shows love – a handwritten “I love you, Mommy!” from a 6-year-old, a call from an adult child, even an imperfectly prepared, long-awaited breakfast in bed served by children filled with pride and love that penetrates the heart of even the most tired of Moms.
That, plus cash.
Kathy Eliscu is a nurse and freelance writer who lives in Westbrook. She credits her way of looking at the light side of life to her mother, the late Marge Eliscu, whose “Coffee Break” humor column ran for two decades in the Maine Sunday Telegram