Despite my general disinterest in mother’s day, even my dug-in heels are slipping against the tide of forwarded emails, blog posts, and essays I’m reading this weekend. Let me be clear: I have no problem with beautiful, heartfelt words about motherhood – in fact I adore them. I just find the packing of them into a single weekend a little weird. I think we ought to celebrate this every day, and in my view random celebrations mean more (big, huge massive exception: my birthday). I also share all of Anne Lamott’s aversions to Mother’s Day, so lucidly and wisely expressed in her essay here. I have always disliked this day but it wasn’t until I read her words that I really understood why.
Still, as Anne says, being a mother is among the richest experiences of my life, and I’m thinking about it this morning. Motherhood is is both enormous and tiny. It is made up of emotions so unwieldy that I can’t put them into words, and of moments so small I would miss them if I blinked (and I’ve surely missed millions). Sometimes the feelings are so giant I feel swollen with them, taut, tight, very much like I was in the last trimester of pregnancy. Sometimes the minutiae is so small that it seems impossible to hang any meaning onto it, and every time I am surprised when somehow, the hook actually holds. I’m not sure whether it is one facet of the human experience or a prism through which that experience may be seen.
In my struggle to experience the moments of emotion so overwhelming I feel as though I’m jumping off a tall pier into the ocean, or ducking through the heavy downpour of a waterfall, I turn to the words of others. It is in Anna Quindlen’s essays, Kelly Corrigan’s videos, and a million quotations that I have pulled out of books that I find myself nearest to understanding. I reach, grasping, for the ways that those far more eloquent than I have described and captured this experience.
For the tiny, the minute, I don’t have to look any further than right here. The moments flutter like magnolia petals around my feet, stunning, short-lived, and quickly turning to brown mush. When I write about them I’m trying to memorialize them in their pink beauty, their spring perfume wafting off of them in waves. In this way, motherhood is running upstairs to change my shirt before a meeting because Whit pressed his peanut-buttery face against my belly when he hugged me goodbye. It is instinctively holding out my hand to receive a chewed-up maraschino cherry as soon as I see Grace grimacing with not liking the taste of it. It is cooking the same zucchini chocolate chip muffins every single week because it’s the only vegetable Whit will eat, ever. It is driving around to four stores at rush hour because Grace was sad one day in preschool that everyone else had cartons of milk in their lunch and she did not (not easy to find small cartons of soy milk for my dairy-allergic daughter).
Big and small. Tiny and huge. Overwhelming and underwhelming. Tears and laughter. All of these tensions, some of them cliches, exist in every single day for me. Happy mother’s day to you all, regardless of who or how you mother. It is universal, this feeling, and spans far beyond the most traditional definitions of “motherhood.” Of that I am certain.