Making Room on Mother’s Day

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My people, minus Josh who was still in the kitchen.

I woke up dazed and confused: this was not my pillow or my comforter. A Playmobil queen and her entourage stared at me from the other side of the room while a ginger-haired mermaid gazed sweetly down at me from the wall. Even more unsettling was the glowing yellow-faced clock that announced it was 9:04 a.m., two hours past my typical wake up time. Where the heck was I?

Then I remembered: I’d stumbled into my youngest daughter’s room sometime in the early morning when she’d come bouncing into our bed, awake for the day. Without saying a word, I’d padded down the hall, slipped into her slim twin bed and fell soundly back to sleep. Isn’t sleeping in what moms do on Mother’s Day?

To be honest, I never know what to do on Mother’s Day. I know women who are very specific with their people about the day: sleep in, get a massage, go on a family hike, binge watch Orange Is the New Black while slobbing around in sweats, no interruptions. I am not that woman. I tend to hem and haw, waffling between wanting a day to myself where there is absolutely no mothering going on and schlepping the entire family on an exciting outing where I have to utilize my parenting chops and mother my ass off even more than usual.

When my kids asked me what I wanted to do this year, I became anxious, excited and confused, as usual. Even if I made a particular request, even a simple one, I figured the day would probably end with someone crying and me washing dishes and sweeping the floor. Their intentions would be pure and full of love, but why would it be any different than any other day? I know, I’m a cynic.

I ended up answering their question with something like “I’m sure I’ll love whatever you come up with,” then listened to their ideas, smiled benignly and nodded reassuringly. From what I could tell there would be some combination of coffee in bed, an elaborate and exotic brunch, and several unique and special homemade gifts. Now if I could only stay out of the way. Waking up at 9:04 a.m. was a good start.

I lay awake for a few minutes, my eyes adjusting to the pink-tinged light filtering through the flowered curtains. I heard the muffled clank of pans in the kitchen, the girls’ tinkling voices, the bass notes of a jazz standard piping through the ceiling speakers. I imagined the kids wielding the glue gun and pipe cleaners, using their finest penmanship to finish up their presents and my husband layering caviar, crème fraîche and black lava salt on thick cuts of bâtard.

As the even-keeled preparations continued downstairs without me, I felt the space around me expand and the distance grow between me and them. On my own, I began to compress. All my fluttering bits and pieces, usually cast wide, reeled themselves back to me. I pulled them in, swallowed them down, growing heavier and denser and whole: so this is what it feels like to be in and of myself, unhitched from the “us” while still within reach. I was not entirely comfortable with the feeling of my own absence. I’m not convinced life can go on without me and if it does, it’s probably messy and underdone and taking twice as long. I might be a control freak with a side of OCD, but really that line of reasoning is just a cover for my real fear: if life goes on without me, will I be okay with simply being?

I fought the urge to go downstairs and wandered into the shower. I didn’t hurry. No one interrupted me. Thoughts came and went and I let them. When I got out, the Sunday New York Times and a steaming cup of coffee were waiting for me, the emissary long gone. Not even a note. Alone, I noticed how unmoored I felt being by myself for so long with nothing in particular to do, no need to prep or plan, no timeline. Making room for myself is challenging enough. Allowing others to do it for me is excruciating. Still, I stuck with it.

I dressed and combed out my wet hair. I put on a little make up. I vowed to be deliberate, to only go down when I was entirely ready. My parents arrived and still I did not rush. I imagined my dad taking off his worn leather jacket and my mom in her signature oversized sunglasses. The girls chatted and laughed with their grandparents, the music played, the dishes clattered. Fifteen minutes later I came quietly down the stairs, my long dress swishing around my legs. The distance between “me” and “us” dwindled. I worried that my arrival would take up too much room. I worried that I would once again cast myself out too widely. I held my breath: I did not want to ruin it.

My three girls greeted me with big grins and hugs and a pile of assorted, artsy goodies. The older two had baked and frosted a cake. The little one couldn’t stop hopping around like the Energizer bunny. Josh was finishing up an asparagus frittata. My dad was shuffling a deck of cards for a game of Gin. My mom offered me a pomegranate bellini. I wrapped my arms around my girls, kissed their cheeks and stayed whole. I smiled at my loving husband, glanced at the pile of dishes in the sink that I knew I’d help wash later and stayed whole. I hugged my dad, he gave me a kiss and I stayed whole. I wished my mom a happy Mother’s Day, clinked glasses with her and stayed whole. I did not scatter or spread myself out. I did not fill the space – I didn’t need to. I simply exhaled and found my place, thankful that the people I love had saved me a seat.

This is a Finish the Sentence Friday post where writers share their versions of a completed sentence. This week’s prompt is, The day I was born (re-born) was….” and is hosted by Kristi of Finding Ninee and co-hosted by this week’s sentence thinker-upper, Corinne Rodrigues of Everyday Gyaan. While I didn’t write about birth, I AM experiencing a kind of rebirth as I find more ways to make room for joy and just being in this life. 

21 thoughts on “Making Room on Mother’s Day

  1. Beautiful. I feel the same conflicting emotions on Mother’s Day. Sometimes my kids do great things. Other years, like this year, they virtually ignore it. Inhaling the beauty that is real life is definitely the best option. Great post.

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  2. Make room for myself…I think I like that. And the part about wondering if you’d be OK simply being if life went on around you. That’s something to think about. I have always found Mother’s Day to be … odd. In my family, the mothers around us knew they were special all the time so why do something huge like that just because the calendar says to do it, you know? When I think about what I want to do on Mother’s Day each year, I always come back to just being home enjoying my family. Simple needs, I guess!

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  3. What gorgeous expression and exploration. I so resonate with this- ‘All my fluttering bits and pieces, usually cast wide, reeled themselves back to me. I pulled them in, swallowed them down, growing heavier and denser and whole: so this is what it feels like to be in and of myself, unhitched from the “us” while still within reach.’ And love your final line, a feeling that fills me up. Thank you, Lisa!

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  4. Beautiful post. I also feel a bit odd on Mother’s Day. It’s supposed to be all about YOU, and being pampered and whatnot, but it’s also a celebration of your MOTHERHOOD, and when I think about what defines me as a mom, chores, taking care of the kids, etc. are a big part of that.

    Glad you were able to soak in your day!

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  5. I love the honesty of this post and your unique Mother’s Day experience, from admitting your concerns to letting yourself go slow to letting yourself be and enjoying your family!

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  6. Gorgeous gorgeous gorgeous Lisa. Here’s to staying whole. I especially loved this “I’m not convinced life can go on without me and if it does, it’s probably messy and underdone and taking twice as long.” I struggle with that so so much. xo

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  7. Beautiful, and I’m so glad it all went well – that you were able to keep your distance and take your time, knowing that the pieces of everything were being successfully held together by your family 🙂 How wonderful (and really, a testament to the effort and example you’ve put in, whilst parenting).

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      1. It sounds like it. What stars! And…I guess this is your next phase of learning, in a way – starting to let go and just BE! (I skipped straight ahead to that part – it can be lovely).

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  8. If life goes on around me, will I be okay with simply being?
    I love this line, Lisa. I wonder all the time…not this eloquently, though: )

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