Who would I be if I were to not write a blog about Mothers. I am, after all, treading in the deep waters of motherhood myself. So whether or not you are a man or a woman, whether you ARE a mother or not, I happen to know that you do HAVE a mother. Hopefully, thoughts of her bring a warm, fuzzy sensation to your heart and a smile of appreciation on your lips.
I have come to believe that mothers are some of the most written about, talked about, revered people on this earth. Just Google "Quotes about Mothers" and you will be overwhelmed with evidence. It's true, we tend to be a pretty loving, selfless bunch; but we are also some of the toughest critics this side of John Stewart. It's a monumental task, "creating people"--an awesome responsibility--and those of us who endeavor to do it well, often find ourselves exhausted, unappreciated, and, come about the teenage years, uttering the words, "I can totally understand those women who make the choice not to have children."
Now I am not impressed by fame and celebrity. Seldom, if ever, do I look up to athletes, actors, singers, presidents, CEOs. If I met the pope, I would not kiss his ring. If I met the queen, I would be hard pressed to courtesy. I will not ask for your autograph (or at least not for myself -- I gave my JB autograph away) nor will I push my way forward to be in your presence. I come from a long line of strong, hard-working mothers. Women who took their task seriously and without question. These are the kind of people I look up to. Because of their example, I am a steadfast mother; I am a giving mother; I am solid with my children . . . anything they need, anything, I am all over it.
I have also spent my life surrounded by men who idolize theirs, two men in particular who lost their mothers when they were teenagers. What I hear are stories. Stories of moms who were amazing cooks, who raised many children, quietly, behind the scenes, who worked themselves to their graves, literally. They mothered, and they mothered well; that's all I've been told, that's all they knew of these women. From these women I never met, I have learned to be loving and affectionate with my own children. I'd like to say that because of them, I also learned to be a fabulous cook; this I have not. Nor am I a quiet, behind-the-scenes woman. haha
This leads me to wonder (because I am, after all, a heady person) what comes to mind when you think of your mother. Is/Was she quiet or vivacious? Was she selfless or selfish? Did she shower you with kisses or lovingly pat your head? Was she patient to a fault? Was she swift to correct? Did she pray with you? Laugh with you? Cry with you? Cry because of you? (I bet she did, and you just don't know about it.) Did she impart wisdom and teach important life lessons as Jimmy Buffett's mother, Mary Lorraine "Peets" Buffett did:
1. Read often, even the classics.
2. Accept everyone for who they are, not what they do.
3. Be well-traveled.
4. Learn to be a listener. Shhh!
5. Live by the sea.
6. Listen to your spirit and find joy.
7. Education, like money, doesn’t make you happy or successful.
8. Love and family are the best things we have.
Or did your mother simply do the best job she knew how to do?
The following is an excerpt from my second book, Just Another (Shitty) Day In Paradise (the sequel to Watch Your Step at the Wishing Well) regarding Mother's Day, a day with which I have a contemptuous love-hate relationship.
From book #2: Just Another (Shitty) Day In Paradise
Chapter 18: "It's a Dang Fool Husband Doesn't Spring for his Wife"
I was counting down the days to that in which I would be duly honored as the selfless, nurturing, saintly Mother that I felt I had become. As funny as this may sound, I was also “prepared” for my very first Mother’s Day thanks in part to a lecture I received from my longtime friend, Jenny Coleman-Ward. In one, two hour long-distance phone conversation between Oakwood Shores and Key West, Jenny regaled me with the horror story of her very first Mother’s Day. Let me begin by saying that Jenny and her husband, Ben, were blessed with triplets. (I can tell you, “blessed” is not exactly the word I would have used if my O.B. had told me I was having triplets! Of course, we’re taught that every child is a blessing, aren’t we? However, no one will admit, at least not out loud, that what they really mean to say is that so and so were “saddled” with triplets, “burdened” with triplets, “encumbered” with triplets. All the same, lest I be immediately stricken dead from this chair upon which I sit, I suppose the best choice of words is “blessed.”) As Mother’s Day rolled around, those triplets had been controlling the lives of two otherwise sane adults for nearly 7 months—make that 24/7 for 7. To say that Jenny was exhausted is an understatement. I recall having seen her somewhere around month 5 at a grocery store on a Friday night. I was dressed to go out, had stopped at the store to pick up some wine when I spotted her sitting in a chair near the pharmacy counter, wearing holy sweat pants, flip flops, a stained shirt, no make-up, and hair in one big clipped-up mess. I called out to her, but received no response. That’s when I realized that she wasn’t ignoring me, she was asleep—asleep sitting up in a plastic molded chair, loud Muzak overhead, and a couple of hearing-impaired senior citizens to her left and right, shouting to one another. And I would have left her there, undisturbed in her momentary slumber if it had not been for a bit of drool making its way slowly down her chin, but as you girlfriends know, it is in our contract to step in and save one another from complete and utter humiliation. (See, that’s the bad thing about living in the same town in which you grew up. You never know when you’ll run into a former boyfriend or God forbid, his parents, who will convey to their son what a tragic life that what’s-her-face is leading and how he was so right to have dumped her after the Sadie Hawkins dance.)
Okay, so back to my Mother’s Day lesson. Jenny told me that she had fully expected Ben to take charge of the day’s activities. (Apparently the most common Mother’s Day mistake.) Well, he had, only his idea of an activity was to invite his mother over to the house to honor her with a special Mother’s Day dinner. To make matters worse, Jenny, who had been up all night with fussy triplet #1, was informed of her husband’s grand plan exactly 10 minutes before triplet #2 came down with the stomach flu (which, by the way, completely ruined her new Pottery Barn sisal rug . . . sweet potatoes having been the breakfast du jour), exactly 15 minutes before triplet #3 fell off the changing table and broke his leg, and exactly 15.2 seconds before Jenny laid into her husband, telling him to call his mother and uninvite her for the day. Ben, who had been outside cutting the grass (because, of course, all you men assume that when guests arrive, they immediately judge you by how well the lawn looks, never mind the scum floating in the toilet bowl, or the unkempt kids, or the stains on the carpet), said something about his mother being able to help with the babies, which Jenny mentioned was just about as likely as his mother missing her weekly Bridge game at the Northshore Country Club, which Ben said was probably the truth, yet irrelevant, because they were already on their way. So off Jenny and Ben went to the Emergency Room, one baby screaming in pain, one crying with fatigue, and the other throwing up all over hell and half of Georgia (as Garry would put it).
As if that alone wasn’t enough to ruin any mother’s regular day, let alone Mother’s Day, you’ll never guess what happened next. As Jenny and Ben tried desperately to entertain three distraught 7 month olds in an overcrowded ER, Ben received a telephone call from his father explaining that they’d just been in a car accident, nothing major, just some cuts and bruises, but the car was busted up pretty good and would Ben mind coming to get them as they were only 40 minutes away. And so Ben, quite obviously, according to Jenny, unclear as to where his loyalties should lie, left her and the three children in the ER, promising to be “back in a jiff.” Believe it or not, the day went downhill from there. Ben was not back in a jiff; Ben had forgotten to charge his cell phone; Jenny and the three children eventually took a cab home; Mother-in-law bitched and moaned the rest of the day about the ½ inch scrape on her forehead; six o’clock rolled around and everyone looked to Jenny for a meal; Ben (tail between his legs) ran out to make amends, came home with two buckets of Kentucky Fried Chicken, forgot to pick up a card, not to mention a Mother’s Day gift, and, to top it all off, the in-laws were forced to stay the night, meaning Jenny had to put clean sheets on the guest bed and wash the scum floating in the upstairs toilet (the one she hadn’t cleaned, figuring neither would ever use the upstairs bathroom). Eventually, at 8 p.m., Jenny, pissed off and no longer able to stand on two feet, staggered up to bed, leaving all three babies screaming in the living room.
She laid it out plain and clear to me, not one bit of sugar on her tongue. Number 1: Do not, under any circumstances, allow your husband to “plan” Mother’s Day. Number 2: Once you have given birth to his children, Mother’s Day is no longer a celebration of his Mother, nor yours. (But yours already understands that, doesn’t she?) It is to be a day solely devoted to you. Number 3: You are not allowed to cook, clean or otherwise fret over any household task or child-rearing dilemma on your special day. Number 4: Tell your husband. Yes, tell him, that a card and gift are not only customary traditions, but requirements. And Number 5: “Mark my words,” she said, “by the second or third Mother’s Day, when you’ve got two or three little ones pulling at your hem and whining up a storm, what every mother really wants but is too guilt-ridden to admit, is a day off; no husband, no kids, just a day of blessed solitude. Now that, my friend, is my idea of the perfect Mother’s Day.”
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The best mother on earth, of course, belongs to me, and I know at least two others who will make the same claim. I won't sit here and go on and on about her because I'm aware that perhaps you have (somehow) been led to believe that your mother is better than mine. I am fortunate, however, in that I still get to see and spend time with my mother each and every day. I am blessed to have her in my life, and I can only hope that my three teenagers will someday come to feel the same about me.
Happy Mother's Day to all the mothers and grandmothers out there who put their two feet on the floor each morning to undertake the world's most difficult, yet most important, job.