I Just Wanted You to Know

Dear Mom,

I have been thinking of you a lot this week, I guess because Mother’s Day is tomorrow. I even got out that photo album you made. Do you remember the one I mean? It’s filled with shots of you and Dad from before you got married, on your wedding day and during your honeymoon. There are lots of photos of friends I never met and family members I barely remember. There are pictures from when you modeled in New York and when you worked at Michigan Bell. What was your job there again? Dad told me once, but I can’t remember. I love all the photos of you and him goofing around on your honeymoon. Where did you go on that trip? I think Dad said it was Niagara Falls, although I can’t tell from the pictures. It’s fun to see that you had a silly side. You both look so happy and in love.

I left the album on the couch the other day, and Isabel found it. She said I look like you, but I think she resembles you more. It is strange, but somehow comforting, to see myself and my daughter in photos of someone I don’t remember and she never knew. I wonder if she thought the same thing. I was overwhelmed with emotion looking at the album with her, knowing that you had thoughtfully placed all the photographs on the pages, adding funny captions, telling your life’s story. It was as if you were there beside us. I felt you, Mom.

Afterward, I hugged Isabel and told her how proud you would have been of her. I told her what a sweet, loving person she is. I told her how happy she makes people. I try to say things like that to her whenever I think of them, Mom. I say them because they are true, but also because you never had the chance to say them to me. I know you would have.

I just wanted you to know, Mom, that even though I was too young when you died to have any real memories of you, you have always been a presence in my life. I have the photographs of you and, even better, I have the stories Dad and others told me. I share them with Isabel and Sam from time to time because I don’t want you to be just a picture on the wall to them. I want them to know what a strong and talented woman their Grandmother Jeanne was. That is so important to me.

Aunt Thelma, my undeniably amazing second mother, used to say “life is for the living,” and I think that is true. We should focus on the loved ones who are still with us. But I also believe we should never forget those whom we have lost.

I just wanted you to know I am thinking of you, Mom, as I often do. And I wanted to tell you how much I love being a mother. It brings me peace, Mom, to be able to give my children the love, the comfort, the support you weren’t able to give me. It makes me happier than I ever imagined I could be.

I just wanted you to know.



 she never knew.

Best Mother’s Day Ever (I Planned It Myself)

I am a control freak. Ask anyone: my husband, my children, the postal carrier. I like to know what is happening, when and with whom. I’ve gotten (a little) better now that the kids are older (11 and almost 13), but I still like to be in charge. I am not ashamed of this because I’m not rude about it. However, if I have an opinion about the plans we are making, you’d best be sure you will hear about it.

And this, my friends, is why I planned my own Mother’s Day. It’s no reflection on my husband or family, but I’ve always found the holiday to be a bit of a letdown. My husband is pretty laidback and doesn’t make specific plans. Instead, he usually wakes up that morning and asks me what I want to do. My response is a downtrodden “I don’t know,” and the passive-aggressive stewing begins. Mine, that is.

What he doesn’t know is that we moms have big expectations about Mother’s Day. It’s our day off, our day to relax, our day to do whatever the hell we want, right? Well, not if no one knows what we want to do.

So this year — finally, after 12 Mother’s Days — I took some time to figure out something I would enjoy doing and told my husband about it. Was that so difficult? Not really, especially for someone who is normally so vocal about her opinions. And it saved us both a whole lot of hurt feelings. On my end: I got to do what I wanted. On his end: He didn’t have to deal with the quiet wrath of a disappointed wife.

It’s not that I don’t enjoy the gifts and cards. Handmade or store-bought, I adore all of it. I savor every last word and shed boatloads of tears (see previous post “Confessions of a Mother’s Day Card Sap”). This year, I particularly loved that the kids made me breakfast in bed. Slightly runny eggs and mushy toast is, after all, my favorite. They even did the dishes. But what about after breakfast? Then what?

Honestly, the idea of heading to the local nursery and fighting other crabby moms who would rather be getting pedicures (maybe I’m projecting a bit here) for the last hydrangea hanging basket is not my idea of a good time. Do I like planting things? It’s not exactly at the top of my list. I’d rather get that pedicure or go to brunch, especially if mimosas are involved.

And that’s how I made Mother’s Day my own. I named the place. I picked the time. I told the kids what to wear (I am the mom after all). And I dragged my little family to the gospel brunch at the House of Blues in Chicago, where the four of us proceeded to get down with Jesus. I am not a very religious person, but that gospel choir’s performance moved me. And, you know, I think my husband and kids liked it too — or at least they did a stellar job pretending they did. I know they enjoyed the all-you-can-eat buffet.

The important thing is that we were together, and Miss Control Freak spent the day her way. Because if mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy…especially on Mother’s Day.

Confessions of a Mother’s Day Card Sap

Yes, it’s true: I am one of those ridiculously over-emotional types who cry while reading greeting cards. I don’t know who comes up with your schmaltz, Mr. Hallmark, but it gets me every time. It doesn’t matter what the melodramatic rambling is about — birth, graduation, wedding, death — because any cause for celebration or sympathy will start the tears flowing.

The worst by far are the Mother’s Day and Father’s Day cards.

I don’t remember being nearly so affected by them before I had children. (Then again, I sometimes have difficulty recalling anything before I had children.)  But once I did have kids, shopping for Mother’s Day and Father’s Day cards for my parents became a big deal — one that absolutely required Kleenex.

This year, as usual, I was crying before I finished the first card. Honestly, it had me at “Happy Mother’s Day.” But then it hit me: I didn’t have anyone to buy a card for. My husband had already bought one for his mother (what a thoughtful son she raised!), and my moms are both gone.

The short story: My birth mother died when I was two and a half, and my paternal aunt, who raised me, passed away in December. Obviously, I never purchased a card for my mother, but I always gave one to my aunt. Whether it was a card made with construction paper and crayons as a child or a dozen roses sent as an adult, she was someone I wanted to celebrate.

This year I’ll be celebrating her a little — actually a lot — differently. My husband and kids are taking me to a gospel brunch at The House of Blues in Chicago. It will be a first for all of us, and my children, frankly, seemed a little dumbfounded when we told them about it. But there are few things I can think of that are more uplifting than a gospel choir.

I’m looking forward to a new experience with my kids this Mother’s Day. And while I didn’t have any cards to shed tears over in the checkout line, I can guarantee the ones my children give me will get the waterworks started. It’s OK, though. They’re worth every tear.