On the other hand, all mothers like to feel appreciated. Perhaps in a different millennium, moms who are full-time care givers will receive a salary commensurate with their 24/7 efforts. But in the meantime, I happily accept hugs, kisses, flowers, cards, gifts, breakfast in bed, dinner out. A phone call from a college kid is the bare minimum. And it’s even more important to get that call on Mother’s Day than on my birthday. Everyone is born on one of 365 days and even then—especially then—mothers are the ones in labor. Less than half the population become mothers and still a smaller fraction—I’m sure you’ll agree—are good mothers. (Fathers, aunts and siblings are also special, but that’s for a different blog).
I was lucky to have my daughter come home from college on Saturday. Sarah has a memory like an elephant and is fond of reminding distant acquaintances of their ages and birthdays, whether they like it or not. So it was not surprising that Sarah came to dinner Sunday night with a lovely Mother’s Day card for me and her grandmother. My husband Henry always buys me two cards—one funny, one serious—and roses. This year the roses were white and purchased together on our way home from doing errands. Henry also bought me a beautiful blazer.
It was a warm, sunny day (that was going better than many Mother’s Days in the past) except that Max was away at college. He had called the night before– just as I was falling asleep— to complain: he was stressed out and exhausted; his ex-girlfriend—who’d falsely accused him of giving her herpes—had been taken away in an ambulance drunk. He’d gone to the hospital early that morning to pick her up, and was now behind in writing his paper. He said it was the worst paper he’d ever written.
“So why not make it better?” I encouraged. “You still have time.”
His sigh was long and tortured.
“You only have two weeks till graduation,” I pumped enthusiasm into my voice. “Every college senior is swamped at the end. Finish strong and don’t lose sleep over your ex-girlfriend. She’s not losing sleep over you.”
But after my pep talk, I was the one losing sleep. Why couldn’t Max just deal with his schoolwork like other kids? He’d been writing excellent papers at the last minute for years. If he was so discouraged now, how would he ever find a job in today’s impossible economy? And why was he wasting time on an ex-girlfriend who had treated him poorly, and whom he would (hopefully) never see again after graduation?
When I still hadn’t heard from Max at 2 pm on Mother’s Day, I began to wonder if he was going to call me. Or was I only good for the midnight pep talks, and reassuring him he didn’t have a deadly disease? Henry had reminded Max a few days ago, but he was still capable of forgetting.
Once, as a C.I.T at sleep-away camp, he’d called us on Henry’s birthday to say he’d managed to lose both of his retainers. He’d assured us it wasn’t his fault. He’d left them in a paper bag under his bunk bed and “someone must have thrown them out.” No Happy Birthday.
That was years ago. I’m not being fair. Besides, I tell myself, Mother’s Day is only half over.
Sure enough, at 5 PM when I return home to relax before dinner, there’s a message from Max, wishing me Happy Mother’s Day. I call him back, and we have a pleasant conversation. This time he sounds like a nice, normal person who’s tired, but has it all under control. I get off the phone, wishing our whole family could be together on Mother’s Day and feeling a twinge of jealousy that both kids will be here on Father’s Day.
But then I remember all the times Max hadn’t walked the dog, couldn’t find his cell phone or wallet, wasn’t ready to leave with the rest of the family, and it’s OK that he’s not here on Mother’s Day.
I smile and I’m at peace. My sweet husband also bought a card for Max and signed his name. It’s not half bad having a house half full.