It started the night before – the Mother’s Day mudslide of discontent. I climbed into bed with Ken, asking him if I had a present to unwrap in the morning. And his face sort of contorted in an exaggerated way like, “Yes of course I do – it’s your first mother’s day – this one’s in the bag,” but what he really said was “Oh my gosh, No – I’m a horrible person. I totally forgot.” And really, it only goes downhill from there, right?
Here’s the deal. I’m a pretty great expectation manager, so I’m a bit surprised/disappointed/embarrassed with how obsessed I’d become with celebrating my first Mother’s Day. I can’t even remember the last birthday I celebrated - really celebrated – so I didn’t expect this holiday to be any different. But it was. Because the first Mother’s Day is important, and not really for the sentimental reasons that we’re supposed to be celebrating. It’s important because the first year is so crazy mind-boggling hard, because the scars of childbirth are still lingering and your hair is still growing back and your 9-month-old keeps swiping nursing pads from inside your shirt while you’re on the phone with the electric company.
It’s still fresh. You’re in this weird time zone where you remember your last Mother’s Day just one year ago so vividly – how you were halfway through pregnancy with all the freedom (naivete?) in the world, dreaming of tiny onesies and wooden toys. And how different being a mom is vs. how you pictured it, pre-baby. It’s this weird mix of “I cannot remember what my life was like before this sweet baby” and “Oh wait, I totally do – I had a personality and perky breasts and a closet full of non-nursing-friendly dresses. Amazing!”
And all of those emotions and memories and perspective shifts kind of boiled to the surface this weekend and I let myself get swept up into the Mother’s Day-ness of it all. Because it was a hard year, and for once, I felt like I deserved a bit of a celebration.
For the record, Ken did forget Mother’s Day, but he did also sneak into the kitchen to clean at 3am and then surprise me with a kind love letter and single tulip from our backyard. Which is kind of perfection, right? There were no chocolates or massages or candlelit dinners, but there was thoughtfulness and truth and appreciation, which always win in my book.
But here’s the thing – even if Ken had remembered Mother’s Day and surprised me with a bouquet of everything-I’ve-always-wanted, it wouldn’t be enough to replace the void I didn’t even realize existed – the one where I bid farewell to my former life and embraced the routine of a face-wiping, diaper bag-toting mama.
When you lose someone you love, the general consensus seems to be that the first year is the hardest. Everything is still raw, and with each passing holiday or occasion or season, you remember what the former was like. The last time the leaves fell, the final summer popsicle you enjoyed. It’s a constant reminder that your new life is different, and the old one will never return.
And it’s not the holiday’s fault. It’s just time and perspective and the circle of life and all things good and holy, Amen. And it’s a void chocolates can’t fill.
I don’t know that the cycle ends, either. I can only imagine how, next year for Mother’s Day, I’ll be mourning the loss of this chubby baby and welcoming – with reluctant and sticky hands – a barreling toddler. And so it goes, year after year, a combination of remembering and forgetting and mourning and anticipating – swinging pendulums that remind us of the grand clock tower of life.
On second thought, I suppose chocolates wouldn’t hurt. Because that’s all we can really ask for, right? A few simple pleasures and a day with the ones we love – those that are running alongside of us as we chase the minute hands in tandem, breathless and full of hope.