May 7, 2014

Other Mothers

As Mothers Day looms (Sunday, May 11th here in the US), my thoughts are wandering from my own motherhood to that of others. Perhaps I'm somewhat primed by the live reading I was recently part of - 'Listen To Your Mother'. I came away altered but more by the stories the other mothers shared, than by any catharsis of my own.

Every year I look around in disbelief at the complete immersion in Mother-love, Mother-respect and Mother-spending that this day brings in the U.S.

The cut-flower industry sees peak sales as restaurants stock up for all the brunches and Hallmark cuts down a few more forests. Yet deep in the heart of the very real emotional landscape of welling hearts and moist eyes brought on by child/dad orchestrated breakfasts-in-bed and finger-paintings, is angst too. Many fathers brace themselves for the look of disappointment in the eyes of the women they have inadvertently let down as their slippery-memories or last minute plans reveal themselves. Women stifle sighs as they plan their own celebrations so as to feel they have gotten the celebration they deserve. The 'Expectations' Olympics are in full swing and there are few winners. Of course that applies to those who have even admitted to themselves that they do desire the validation after all - that 'every day is Mother's Day' is just not passing muster, as enlightened and right as it might sound. Even the skeptics aren't immune to a slight pull on heartstrings when there is a tsunami of sentiment bearing down upon us.

Then there are those who have always set store by Mothers Day, perhaps have memories of occasions where they were celebrated or got to celebrate others - but no longer can. Seniors in institutions or their own lonely homes, women in shelters, single mothers. 

I'm one of those slightly confused skeptics who decries the crass commercialism yet nevertheless enjoys the day. My best Mother's Day was a few years ago when my then 4 year old executed a heart-melting impromptu jig early in the morning to the tune playing on the musical card his dad had helped him pick out for me. Thanks Hallmark -  I forgive you for the trees (though I know I shouldn't). The flowers they get me every year also make me smile. My husband sometimes gets the potted ones (that keep giving), knowing my discomfort with the idea of dying things in vases. So there I am every year, suckered by the emotions and gestures while still wondering "Why the inordinate fuss?"

This year, moved as I am by looking in through windows my LTYM cast mates opened into their experiences, I feel the need to reach a bit more. Instead of challenging the materialism around it or the mechanics of it, I think I will accept that celebration is a good thing. So today, a few days before Mother's Day, I found myself asking my peeps (via a private FB group), what WE might do for other mothers as the nation squirms in the coils of commerce tightening around this occasion. 

Idea 1:
Pay it forward at the coffee line, dry cleaners or any other retail spot for small purchases. Let the person behind you know that you're wishing them happy Mother's Day .....because you are a mom and they had a mom and there are worse ways if spending an extra $2. My friend Pragati Sawney-Coder has already started doing this. Today I bought coffee for the lady behind me in line, who was touched and promised to do the same for someone else tomorrow (though I didn't ask). 
UPDATE: Day 2 coffee buying was quite entertaining. She gave me a suspicious half-smile when I asked  "Is it okay if I buy you coffee for Mothers Day?" then responded "Do I have to buy it for someone else? I'm not a mom you know." I said "You don't HAVE to do anything and you might not be a mom but you have one so I'd still like to get you a drink." She unknitted her brows and thanked me profusely. Still counts as a win in my book. Day 3 backfired but was a hoot - behind me was Mike from work who insisted on buying ME coffee for Mothers Day!

Idea 2:
Visit an elderly neighbor or elderly home to deliver a hug, smile, flowers, lotion or tea-bags to seniors who may not get visits from their kids or be unable to visit their moms or are just, plain lonely. My city has a Council on aging: perhaps others do too.  I have a call in to know where to go and what to do. 
UPDATE: The Council on Aging runs a 'meals on wheels' program where they deliver discounted meals to seniors in their homes. They accepted my offer to donate 30 cards (with a picture drawn by Oyon on it) and a memento. The coordinator will slip one into meals headed to old women. Will post pix here when the mission is accomplished.

Party invites, re-purposed
Son's prize art: photograph-insert into Word-resize-print-glue

Boomarks: dollar store supplies + son's donated craft sticks

Idea 3:
Find a women's shelter and donate coffee, bath supplies and/or make up. They might be moms too. They certainly had/have moms though, so why not?
UPDATE: the only homeless shelter that returned my call had plans already (yay!) but a battered woman's shelter I called accepted my suggestion of donating flowers and make-up to offer women there a treat. They said it would help much as morale was a very big impediment. Yet to hear details of how to get this done by Sunday. Planning to get my local grocery store and Sally's Beauty Supplies to donate flowers/make-up or to match my purchases.

Idea 4:
Until I read this post by Jess Severson, I'm ashamed to say that I didn't even think of the single moms in our midst or those struggling in their marriages/families. Mothers Day celebrations are predicated on the premise that Fathers will step-up and orchestrate or at least, prompt, their children's efforts. What when that premise fails? So Idea 4 = send some flowers or chocolates to the single moms in your life? 
UPDATE: not comfortable with this yet. The single moms I know ROCK and don't need my sympathy to feel empowered and strong. Still, glad to have them put on my map when I was in danger of overlooking them: not everyone wears their pain on their faces. 

I'm a bit amazed at how easy it is to find ourselves as well as hope in others. As easy as losing ourselves perhaps - to bitterness, envy, competition, judgement and angst - but ever so much more rewarding than those negative paths.

Other ideas?

Oyon-ism, 7+
As I impatiently reacted to his dawdling, nagged him (as usual) to focus and finally got his goat....
Oyon (frustrated): You can't just keep saying 'focus', Mamma. You've got to be pacific!
Me: But I DID just tell you! You'd have heard me if....wait. Did you just ask me to be 'pacific'?
Oyon (tearfully now): Yes! You keep saying 'focus' and 'hurry up' but what about? You've got to be pacific so I know what you want me to DO!
Me: What do you mean by 'be pacific'?
Oyon: Well, like, you don't say 'that ocean', you say the PACIFIC ocean or ATLANTIC ocean. That's being pacific.