I have a new favorite day of the year, and it’s the day before mother’s day. Because while I cannot overstate the awesomeness of being served chocolate strawberries in bed along with a cup of tea that has, more often than not, at least partially escaped it’s vessel, I truly enjoy the afternoon of shopping that precedes this rare treat.
While I spend the day shopping for my own mother, I am treated to the best kind of people watching. These are Dads with kids in tow. They shuffle around the display tables in stores wholly foreign. They examine candles, soaps and gel pens. They study the dregs of the chocolate aisle at the grocery store, no doubt chastising themselves for their failure to take care of this earlier. Kids present final selections proudly to cashiers who wrap their treasures in pretty tissue paper. Teenagers rifle through wads of cash and change to pay for potted plants, and cellophane wrapped bouquets. They peruse the card aisle, and struggle to find a sentiment that’s adequate, a few words to convey, with gratitude, their love for the woman who makes them.
It’s the one day of the year that society asks us to consider all that our mothers have given us, and it’s this; everything. It’s a hard concept to grapple with. But the woman your mother was before she was yours was swallowed up. In the moment between your birth and your first cry. While she held your slippery little body, touched your ragged fingernails and breathed you in, she knew the game was over. She surrendered. The jig was up. And every decision she’s made since then, for good or for bad, had you at it’s center. It may not have looked perfect. It may have looked far from it, in fact. But you were there, in her heart, for all of it.
That’s why she rises before you, folds your clothes and makes your oatmeal. It’s why she decorates birthday cakes until 2am and then gets up at 6 to make you birthday pancakes. It’s why she flosses your teeth. It’s why she spends three days sewing beads onto your choir dress. It’s why she learned to knit, so you could have a Harry Potter scarf. It’s why she still tries to make you see reason even while you shut her out. It’s why she comes back for more when you curse at her and call her names. It’s why it felt so damn futile today in the card aisle. And why your hands wobbled a little as you handed over the cash for that potted plant. It’s why the tissue paper wrapping isn’t quite dazzling enough.
But she didn’t do it for the potted plant. She did it because the love she has for you makes her feel a little closer to what some people call God. She does it because her love for you is the tie that connects her to the deepest part of the universe, where we know the meaning lies. Her love for you is the knowing without knowing, the tiny sliver of understanding of the grand thing that we can never comprehend. It’s the reason she says thing like “this is what it’s all about.” Her love for you is perhaps the only thing she can say is really real. It’s the most real thing there is.
As I write this I have been banished from the kitchen, I hear the mixer mixing and Bear has whispered in my ear the secret I am not supposed to know about the macarons. Tomorrow I’ll eat my tea drenched strawberries and I’ll give my mother her carefully chosen gift, wrapped in peacock blue. And we’ll all know it’s not enough, can never be enough. But we’ll hold each other and celebrate. We’ll tell each other “I love you.” We’ll say later, “this is what it’s all about.”