Mother's Day was always a joyful occasion in our home. When I was younger I spent weeks preparing for the big day. I hung big colorful signs on the bathroom mirror. I strung multicolored balloons across the living room and kitchen walls. I presented my mother with sparkly (in retrospect awful!) homemade gifts that I spent hours making.
I beamed with unabashed pride when my mother gushed with gratitude. "This is the best present I ever got!!!" she would exclaim every single year. And I would believe her, even though she gave my bothers the exact same answer. Oddly, they believed her too.
My mother was that kind of woman. She had enough love in her to make you feel like the most prized, most wonderful, most precious person on earth.
When I got older, the presents were more elegant. A day at the theater, the ballet, or a shopping spree. I would pick her up, pick out the outfits for her to try on, and pick up the check at lunch. They were long, leisurely, blissful days filled with good food, lots of laughter, and a feeling of freedom and carelessness.
My mother was my best friend and we could spend hours together without ever getting bored or tired of each other. In fact, there was no one I wanted to spend time with more, and as my mother used to tell me over and over again, the feeling was mutual.
When my mother died of breast cancer three years ago after living with the disease for two decades, my heart ripped apart. I couldn't get around the block, or ride two subway stops without sobbing. I was only 25, and she was my best friend. I did not know how to live a life without her. The pain of losing her nearly killed me.
Mother's Day was particularly hellish. I spent the first one in bed. Literally. All day. I couldn't face the terrible motherless world I suddenly found myself in and decided to forgo it completely by staying under the covers.
The following Mother's Day was a bit easier, but it never really is pain-free. In fact, calling it a "day" is ridiculous. It's really more like a month when you consider the relentless advertising on TV, in store windows, in magazines, in newspapers, and on the radio selling stuff to "give mom."
I know it's materialistic and corporate, but it doesn't make it sting any less. Marketers are brilliant that way. They target our emotional vulnerabilities and it's always a bull's eye. No matter how you feel about your mom -- guilty, joyful, exasperated, loving, mournful -- you also feel something else when you see or hear these ads. When your mother isn't alive, that 'something else' is misery.
Mother's Day is supposed to be about appreciating your mom. And this is the ultimate irony. For the motherless, every day is Mother's Day.
We appreciate the people we love most in the world when they are gone. And when you are mourning a loss -- even years after the person has died -- that appreciation, and longing, and sorrow for all that you are missing, and all that you should have said to them is permanent. There is never any resolution. They are gone and they are never coming back.
I envy all of you out there who get to celebrate Mother's Day this year. No matter what kind of mom you have, having one to celebrate at all is in itself a precious gift. Enjoy it.
Take it from me, it's temporary.