Mother's Day in The Middle

05/08/2015 05:08 pm ET | Updated May 08, 2016
Nicole Jankowski

There will be no macaroni necklaces this year.

No misshapen cats made of clay, affixed to cardboard backing with "You're Purrfect, Mom" scrawled in crayoned lumbering letters. And there are no more tea parties in the preschool classroom, your big rear end stuffed in a little plastic chair. No "Happy First Mother's Day" cards from the drugstore, with your husband's handwritten note, one brand new name signed beside his own, for the baby who is 5 years away from writing it herself.

The teenager will remember (but only after she has rolled out of bed at 10:15) and mark the start of this day with a sheepish kiss on your forehead, for she is taller -- and more self-aware -than you will ever be. The 9-year-old will make breakfast and a gigantic mess, his face alight with pride as he carries up the burned toast, the glass of juice and unwashed apple. His face is shining and his big-toothed smile is a gift, a bright, fantastic gift that you once grew, impossibly, with your own body.

You will dress all the children yourself , fight with your teenager over her outfit, tell your husband to put on a tie. You will not have time for a shower, but rather fold your unwashed hair into a low ponytail and stuff your stretch marks into some Spanx.

You will look longingly at your yoga pants. Soon, my pretties, soon we will be reunited.

There will be brunch.

Your own mother sits at the head of the table when the hostess comes around, beaming with pink carnations and asks "Where are the mom's here?" in a voice that is tight with false cheer, it will take you a moment to identify yourself as one. Me? You'll offer sheepishly. In the presence of your own mother, this assessment of your place will feel false, lacking. You wonder how many other mothers, surrounded by the woman who raised them and their very own children, feel like an impostor at the grown-ups table.

You will cut pancakes, sop up milk spills. Eat something, stop fighting, where's your shoe? You will consider the grand irony that these heathens of your own making, the children crawling under the table, are the reason you are even here, as somebody's mother. Ha. Ha, ha, ha. They will stop terrorizing each other long enough to give you great big hugs, tightly grasping your neck, touching your cheeks with syrupy hands.

You are so pretty, mama. You are my best mama.

She's your only mama, stupid.

Don't call your brother stupid.

You will kiss your mother goodbye and notice her happiness and her pride and feel glad.

You will leave brunch tired and joyful, over-touched and under-appreciated, hungry and full up on togetherness.

At home, your husband will take them all outside, even the teenager (who is rolling her black-lined eyes) and you will take the longest, hottest shower of your adult life. No one will knock at the door, there will be no side of catastrophes brewing.

You will look down at your body, your sagging, hollowed, hallowed skin. You will scrub at your feet, your thick thighs, your belly. Oh, your belly.

You will feel the seeds of self-hatred growing, the sparking words of disgust. This is not what I imagined at all. How did I end up like this?

Your husband knocks on the door and calls in. We have something for you downstairs when you're finished, there's no hurry, when you're finished.

And you're finished. It's time to be finished.

You rinse off and step out, wrap the towel tight around your middle.

You rub the steam from the mirror and decide to say nice things to your body.

I made things. I grew someone who is growing up to be someone wonderful.

Your yoga pants are a gift of comfort that slips on like soft summertime sun.

Macaroni necklaces are stacked in boxes, in your closet and at your mother's house, too.

Teenagers wait downstairs, with a scarf they bought with baby-sitting money.

Little boys write their names proudly in the card your husband picked out just for you. For you, my best friend, on Mother's Day.

Your mother pulls out a photo album alone in the living room of your childhood, and cries over the magic of what once was and in wonder at what you've become.

You are the child of all the mother's past and the mother of all the children left to be grown.

It's a good day, in the middle.

In the middle, mom, it's a very good day.