I want to hug My Mum. I want to crawl onto her knee, inhale her perfume and listen to her heartbeat the way I used to as a child. I want to drowse on her knee as she chats with my Godmother at the kitchen table, their voices a treacled burble, punctuated by the clink of spoons on crockery and knives thwinking of plates as they cut through scones. I want to hear the rumble deep in my mother’s chest as she laughs at something they say. I want that rich orchestra of comfort.
My Mum was a nurse. I used to feel sorry for other kids whose mummies weren’t nurses because My Mum knew how to make me feel better. As an adult, that makes me smile because I now see that every child feels that their mother is the only one that can make them feel better. (I also know that there are extremely tragic exceptions to this but my heart can’t cope with that right now.)
This Mother’s Day, this Covid-19 Mother’s Day, I won’t hug My Mum, in the hopes that she’ll be around for me to hug for many more Mother’s Days to come. Besides, it’s not the first Mother’s Day I’ve missed hugging her. We can still chat every day like we did when I lived abroad.
Besides, I’ve never held much truck with Mother’s Day, believing it to be a marketing gimmick. Every day should be “Mother’s Day.” On another level, it’s a really hard day for some people for many reasons. There’s those who have lost their mother and those who lost the hope of being a mother…
One year, after I had been spat out the other side of failed fertility treatments and was grappling with an unimagined future, we decided to go with friends for a hike on Mother’s Day. Our friends understood what we’d been through. They’d literally been there a few years before us. So the hike was a nice escape, and before we parted ways we decided to nip into a diner to grab a bite to eat. We four sat chatting in a booth as a cheery twenty-something bounced up to the table and stopped us in our tracks by saying, “Happy Mother’s Day.”
I didn’t hear her tell us her name in her perky upbeat voice that Californian servers do so well. I didn’t hear the specials or register if the coke came with free refills because I was too busy fighting the urge to grab the salad fork and stick it in one of her shiny bright eyes. I was nowhere near happy about it being Mother’s Day, light-years from it in fact and I thought I’d never come to terms with it.
Sure, my rage has faded in the years (and I mean, it took years) since then. Back then I couldn’t face my failure, couldn’t look at pregnant women, cried with grief at each new birth announcement (I know I’m not looking good here), secretly hated (okay, well, maybe not that secretly, but God knows I tried) mother’s going on and on about their children, and eventually couldn’t even be bothered with children (except my nephews). I was never going back to teaching – not because we’d moved to California, and I’d have to retrain as a teacher (like, what was that even about?), as I told everyone who asked, but because I could not bear children… in every sense of the word.
And Mother’s Day was torture.
At the moment, I’m dodging kids for totally different reasons. Yesterday I went for a short walk and there were four kids (from about 7 to 13 years old) playing on my street. They were on a fleet of bikes and scooters. As they came careening towards me, I prepared to cross the road to avoid them, but a car was coming, so I had to wait while they got closer and closer. It reminded me of scuba diving with jellyfish in the water. I didn’t want to get too close but they being oblivious to my movements wafted closer in random patterns (both kids and jellyfish). The oldest one looked up, gave a shy, “Hi” and waved a hand (I’m talking about kids only now!) and I felt so sorry for her. What a crappy time to be young and under house arrest.
I’ve come to terms, for the most part, with my childfree status. It certainly has its perks even though the grief can still kick my butt at times (Christmas being one) but the best thing that happened this week was getting the news that one of my best friends became a Grandma again. I was overjoyed at being overjoyed at the arrival of the new baby.
Everything passes… even grief and even pandemics.
And if this Mother’s Day you need to close your eyes and take your mind back to your earliest memory of comfort, and that memory involves your mother, then you are celebrating Mother’s Day with her.