Celebrating motherhood is big business. Not only is it the #1 day of the year for long distance phone calls, and the busiest day of the year for restaurant dining, greeting card companies say they'll sell 144 million cards for Mother's day - each one filled with warm and fuzzy sentiments that children, husbands, and friends of all ages will send to their moms, grandmothers, aunts - and any other woman in their lives who helped raise them up. Actually, though 80 percent of us will buy a card for mom this Mother's Day, 83 percent of the cards will be purchased by females. Clearly, it's a "girl" thing.
I've been a mother since I was 21 and I am...dare I say it -- 56 now, so I've been receiving Mother's Day cards for 35 years. Actually, I'm a grandmother now too, so I can receive cards from multiple generations. I'm happy to be acknowledged for this 24/7 part of me -- the part that never sleeps, never shuts down, never gives up, and never ends. I have a healthy respect for mothers of all ages, because having "been there done that" for four children - I know how tough it can be. There is no free lunch, no easy road, no free ride. Yet I would do it all over again, and again, and again. And if Mother Nature hadn't intervened, I probably would have...chicken pox, sleepless nights, puberty, tattoos, body piercings and all. But my ability to reproduce has been curtailed. I'm retired...so to speak.
At this time of year, I start buying Mother's Day cards in bulk. I want to acknowledge every woman I know for being special in someone's life. I think about two of my daughters who are mothers themselves now. I think of my own mom -- 81 and lovely, though more fragile, and several inches shorter than she used to be when she was younger, due to osteoporosis. Still, my mom's hugs are as warm as ever, and more nurturing than anything I've ever known. She still beams at me like I've done something spectacular every day of my life, and talks about me like I'm the best thing since sliced bread.
On this mother of all greeting-card days, I also think about my girlfriends...some of them mothers; some grandmothers like me, and some who are grandmothers by default. In my girlfriend universe, all kinds of mother/grandmother variations are represented, with a broad age-range, too. And then there are the girlfriends who are still trying to be mothers - the ones who are undergoing complex fertility treatments, hiring surrogates, or working through the adoption process. One such friend, who is adopting a baby from Guatemala, shared with me her dreams and wishes about motherhood - and also her worries about adoption. Would the bond be the same? Would her friends understand and support her? Would she really feel like a mother? All I could say was yes, yes and yes. I wrote the following to bolster her resolve.
"Are you my child," asked the woman? "My eyes are blue, and yours are brown."
The child looked up and saw the loving smile, and said, "Your eyes are blue, but they see far and they see near. They can see bright, and they can see soft. They can see me in all colors, in all places, and most of all, they like what they see. They have a twinkle that means you are happy. Yes, I am your child."
The woman nodded.
"Are you my child," the woman asked? "My skin is ivory, and yours is chocolate. I am from near, and you are from far."
The child gazed at her and said, "Your skin is light, and mine is dark, but it covers our bodies perfectly, just the same. I am from there, but it leads to here, so our paths have merged at just the right time. Yes, I am your child."
The woman nodded.
"Are you my child," asked the woman? "Though we are different, do we belong together?" The child took the woman's hand and said, "We may be different in some ways, but we are the same in many others. We like the smell of flowers, and we like to giggle. We smile at each other for no reason, and we enjoy the same songs. You tell stories that soothe me, and I hold your hand when I'm scared. Yes, I am your child."
The woman nodded.
"Are you my child," the woman asked? "I am old, and you are young. I speak a language that is foreign to you. Can you understand me? Are you truly mine?" The child smiled up at her and said, "I have searched for you for a long time. I think you are perfect. I love the sound of your words, and I can almost understand them. You think you are old, but you are ageless to me. I only need to see the love in your eyes, and I understand everything. Yes, I am truly yours. I am your child. And you are my mother."
The woman wiped a tear of joy from her eye, and nodded. "Yes, my darling, I am your mother."
We live in a world where divorce is a 50 percent possibility, where couples may or not decide to marry, where single individuals can choose to be single parents, where rules about traditional mothering, fathering, and parenting in general have been challenged. But despite the variations in family life that now abound, I think it's safe to say that Motherhood is precious, and worth celebrating.
So, Happy Mother's day to women everywhere - to mothers, sisters, aunts, grandmothers, step-mothers, surrogate mothers, adoptive mothers, and friend's mothers. We all do the mothering, one way or another. It's a "girl" thing.