The first Mother's Day fell on my college graduation day. The speaker asked everyone to rise in celebration of the moms who were gathered on one side of the stadium. I fidgeted for a second, no longer sure of my place in that collective ritual, feeling like I'd suddenly been thrust into an imaginary spotlight, every eye on me, betting on my next move. I distinctly remember my friend, Anna, grabbing my hand and lifting me out of my seat, and the surge of pride and defiance at the realization that yes, I, too, still had a mom to celebrate, even if I couldn't give her a wave.
It was a year later that I began to notice for the first time that Mother's Day isn't a really a day at all, but a two-month window in which every promotional email and every storefront reminds you of all the things you should buy Mom to show you care. Had it always been that way, I wondered? It's something that you never pay attention to, unless you can't not.
And now, I realize I've hit a new milestone: The year I almost forgot Mother's Day. I now delete the emails without a second's pause, my eyes no longer linger on the announcements for "Mother's Day Brunch" and the advertisements in nail salons. I was vaguely aware that it was sometime in May, but I thought we had weeks to go.
I still haven't decided what I'll do. Some years, we've hosted brunches, or held picnics in parks. Most years have passed forgettably: Notable only for the inevitable sigh of relief that came when it was over. We're big fans of #OccupyMothersDay, organized by our friends at Modern Loss, and their vows to have the day Mom would want you to have: "to kick Mother’s Day in the ass and then make out with it" (er, my mom might have phrased it differently, but hey).
In the end, the same rule applies on Mother's Day as every other day: Whatever you do, do you.
For inspiration, check out our top Mother's Day reads:
- The Unmothered, Ruth Margalit
Borrowing a phrase from Meghan O'Rourke, Margalit explores what it means to be unmothered, not motherless: shaped by the women whose whose faces we occasionally glimpse in a mirror, whose words float back at the most unexpected triggers. The way that time both heals and creates its own ache, driving us farther and farther apart from the people we’ve lost. The way we continue on, and the lingering glow of those we carry with us.
- Unmothered, on Mother's Day, Meghan O'Rourke
Speaking of Meghan: In this fab piece for Slate a few years back, O'Rourke talks about her changed relationship with the Hallmark holiday her mother hated.
- Mother's Day, and the Myth of Indispensability, Vu Le
Terrific read from Vu Le, the blogger behind Nonprofit With Balls. It's written for folks in the nonprofit world, but it's fair to say it applies to us all. He talks about the way in which we "don't just lose someone just once, but multiple times" as old memories blur, and the "myth of indispensability" that keeps us from spending time with the people we love, and remembering to hold on to that which is truly indispensable while we have the chance.
- Mother's Day Rituals, Millennial Style, Ruby Dutcher
Modern Loss intern Ruby Dutcher, a senior at Barnard, penned this stunning piece on preparing (gleefully) to lash out on Mother's Day, only to be let down when the day proved to be all too ordinary. Rather than wallow, she summoned her friends for a "Mother's Day Ritual" in the park, involving her mom's go-to Tootsie Rolls, and a chance to share stories about the mothers, living or dead, who raised them.