by Barbara Olson

Mother’s Day, Sweet Mother’s Day, is the best holiday that Hallmark invented, right? Infinitely better than Grandparent’s Day or Boss’ Day. (Who really cares about their boss anyway?)

My single childhood Mother’s Day memory was when I was about 10 years old. I was at Helen Leyshon’s house sprawled on the floor of the family library. Two richly colored oriental rugs, not identical, covered the bare oak floors and gave us plenty of open space for coloring and paper dolls and reading and wrestling. We had to be careful not to be too wild and wrestle right into her Mother’s cello in the corner. Banging into musical instruments, especially the cello, was sure death.

It was Saturday, and Helen showed me the card she bought to give her mom for Mother’s Day. It was colorful in a cartoonish sort of way and had a clever way of saying something like “best Mom ever.” I was both envious of Helen’s card to her mother and panicked that I did not have one for my mom. Helen suggested I copy the card.

Using thin, onion-skin typing paper I covered the card but could still see through to the outline of the picture underneath. Using a pencil, I copied the picture borders and then filled in the figures using colored pencils. I used a bold, thick, black crayon to copy the words. I was so proud. I have no memory of her receiving it, but I am quite sure she made a fuss.

The second distinct Mother’s Day I remember is when I was the mother. My husband asked what I wanted.

“Do you really want to know what I want?” I too quickly answered. “I want to be alone. I want you to take the boys and let me to go to brunch with my cousin. No family dining, no trip to a museum. I just want to eat a meal without a child on my lap or a mess on my shoulder.’”

He was shaken but compliant, and to this day, my cousin and I enjoy brunch together on Mother’s Day. No children allowed – just two adults dining in spring-colored “Ladies who Lunch” dresses with a cool Mimosa or a spicy Bloody Mary. Mother heaven.

And I remember another special time being Mom on Mother’s Day. When my younger son was 11, his friend’s mother delivered a “come-to-Jesus” lecture to both boys. With vigor she proselytized about how lucky they were to have mothers who loved them and took care of them and made sure they were happy and safe.

My meek son, newly baptized with mother-understanding, went quickly to count his coins and purchased a modest bouquet of yellow-gold daffodils. He then spent the better part of an afternoon creating a ‘World’s Greatest Mom’ poster.

With nervous pride he presented the flowers and the masterpiece. It was a full white poster, 30”x40.” On it he had pasted a dozen photos of himself from infant to toddler to young boy to present boy. He even included a card with his baseball statistics from little league and, of course, his report card from first grade. In his own, shaky, cursive handwriting, using a black magic marker, he ended it with “Love, your son.”

Hmpf. His mom – me – and Mother’s Day were nothing without his grand existence. The poster was touching, appropriately self-centered and sweet. I take it out each year to show him and we laugh together until we are sick.

But that is the real story about mothers, isn’t it? We think – children all of us – that mothers exist only for us.

For me – and maybe for some of you – my mother is for me alone. She tethers me to the world with her love. She fiercely stands by me each day. She is at the end of every phone call. She is the first pride in everything I do. Even in her sometimes anger with me, it is an intimate and loving exchange. Our bold laughter together is for our world only. First smile, first step, first fall, first boyfriend – all became real because Mom was there to witness.

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