Sunday, May 10, 2015

Sunday, Mother's Day

Sometimes, when we're tired, too tired to search out the good movie or youtube video, Ed and I turn on the default Public TV station and watch a nature documentary that inevitably will be airing in the early evening hours. This is how I have seen detailed accounts (always beautifully filmed) of wildlife habitats and especially how they reproduce and how the mother penguin, hawk or wolf cares for her offspring. Almost always, it's a grueling, perilous job -- the feeding, the fending off predators, the teaching of independence. You have to wonder -- what would mama lion, sheep, gull do with her time if she wasn't engaged in the laborious task of caring for her young ones? Soar, gallop, graze? Help others? Take on leadership positions? Does she, like we humans, have choices?

When Snowdrop first started coming to the farmhouse, Ed, who himself has no children, remarked again and again how intensive this task of caring for an infant is. Time consuming, yes that, but also relentless. You aren't given many pauses -- not until they've flown the coop and sometimes, not even then.

So along comes Mother's Day and you think to yourself -- la dee da, another Hallmark holiday. Every day should be mother's day! But in fact, every day doesn't allow us to celebrate motherhood (or anything else for that matter). Every day is that relentless train ride into the unknown, where you make a thousand decisions as a mother -- what to say to your child (young or adult), how to react, what to provide, when to step back and do nothing -- no, a million decisions, while the world watches and occasionally feels called upon to comment on your choices.

On the upside, there is more than a trickle of rewards. Not monetary ones, no, most certainly not that: the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that for a child born this year, the average cost of raising a child until age 18 for a middle class family will be a quarter million dollars. Note, please, that this does not include college. The way things are going, you can add another quarter million for that expense. Your bank account depleted, your time given over to everything from diaper change to wiping a feverish forehead, what rewards are still on the table? Oh, the intangible ones. The joy of launching a new life. The pleasure of your child's (or grandchild's!) company. The snuggle, the giggle, the first song sung together. And finally, if you're lucky, the immense satisfaction of watching your daughters take on adulthood with their own agendas and excitement.

None of this is new or unique to my life, my daughter's life (my daughter -- a new and most wonderful mom herself!), or even to the human condition. Mother seals, and swallows, and goats do it. But today is the designated Mother's Day and so I feel driven to take note of all that mothers do for their kids again and again and again. Our children may not define our lives, but they surely have structured them. At the end of the day, if you're at all a writer, you want to write about it.

And I have more time to write this morning, because it feels too cool (at least initially) to go outside and work in the yard. (We'll get to the sixties, but not until the afternoon.) I take a peek as to what's what...


...and then settle in for a quiet breakfast with Ed, in the sun room.


I do put in a few of the remaining perennials, because, with the exception of the few years I spent in an apartment and a condo,  I cannot remember a Mother's Day when planting something wasn't in the picture (when my kids were small, the gift I always asked for was an outing to a greenhouse -- usually the Flower Factory -- with the whole family, where they would wait patiently for me as I picked out a few favorites and then that same day put them into the ground. I want time to plant -- would be my repeated request.)


But as compared to my other yard work days, I'd say that today is a pretty lazy one!

In the late afternoon, I go with my daughter and her Snowdrop to the Arboretum. This, too, is a repetition of something I would do with my own young ones. Lilacs and flowering fruit trees are almost always in full bloom on Mother's Day, and I would go from one tree to the next, taking in that familiar scent that reminds you of everything good and sweet in life.



Snowdrop then comes with her mom to the farmhouse and she watches me cook a Sunday supper -- a celebratory one, I suppose, as there are two mothers here tonight (Snowdrop's dad and Ed join us for the meal, but they take a back seat to the theme of the day which is, of course, motherhood).


I make raspberry verrines again and I think to myself how enjoyable it will be to someday make these with Snowdrop. Tonight, she begins her earnest hours as grandma's sous chef (probably someday I'll be her sous chef).



And so it is a special day (to be made complete when my younger girl comes back to Madison at the end of the month to take part in another Mother's Day celebration, because my girls are exceptionally good about not letting celebratory occasions slide by without due attention). With Snowdrop in the picture, it is, indeed an extraordinary day.

love you, mommy! you're okay too, grandma!

But I'll end with this: if you never had a child or grandchild, I'd still think this day to be a most special one for you, for anyone (and not only because we all have our own moms to consider). We can all step back and give a thought to the wondrous way all life continues forward, with mothers feeding baby calves, and teaching goslings to fly, and quietly reading a story to a sleepy little one. It's the greatest show on earth and today, we recognize it.