“The Mother’s Day that means something, the Mother’s Day that is not a duty but a real holiday, is about the perfect mother. It is about the mother before she becomes the human being, when she is still the center of our universe, when we are very young.
They are not long, the days of construction paper and gilded rigatoni. That’s why we save those things so relentlessly, why the sisterhood of motherhood, those of us who can instantly make friends with a stranger by discussing colic and orthodonture, have as our coat of arms a sheet of small handprints executed in finger paint.”
There have been posts on Face book of the gifts women have received on Mother’s Day. My friend Nichole’s daughter drew her mother in anime. Another friend’s kids ordered in Chinese food. My daughter promised me an hour of her day in the garden, which she promptly delivered, then went inside to bake a cake. My son, well, his box of Whitman Chocolates came with a card he has yet to sign. But he enjoyed regaling us with the story of the CVS clerk who was berating every single guy in line with a card or box of candy on the morning of Mother’s Day. The few…the happy few…the “band of brothers” there in line with Hallmark in their hands.
I don’t have any actual gilded rigatoni, but I do have this.
And until I get that card from Ben, I do have this.
I have been dipping in to my friend, ‘Out of the Mouths of Babes’ author, Michelle Gillett’s book A Celebration of Motherhood and there, found this quote by Anna Quindlen, who herself has a new book out. You can read a lively interview of Anna written by her son, who is a writer for Barnes and Noble. This quote, about the coat of arms for mothers made of small handprints, highlights what I have been up to all spring.
My daughter is about to graduate the 8th grade from her Waldorf grade school. There, this step in a child’s educational journey is celebrated with more pomp and a bit more circumstance. Her class has been together since first grade, with the same class teacher, a unique quality of Waldorf education. The pomp comes with a recognition of the closing of this groups’ time together, and the circumstance celebrates their next steps.
I am on the yearbook committee. Pouring over the equivalent of ‘gilded rigatoni’, over discs of photos delivered by parents too busy to sort them, which means I get to see their versions of events, the back of their kids heads as they squirm away from their parent’s camera views. It is as Anna says, this ubiquitous and ordinary, universal and tender experience, which you memorialize by saving the random and intentional tributes made for you by your offspring. ( The more I write here, the more I am hoping Ben writes something in that Mother’s Day card.)
In the bigger world there have been some poignant tributes to mothers. Proctor and Gamble offer this one. President Obama, this one.
I espouse further gratitude for our mothers in an effort to stir appreciation for what the women around you are up to. Whether or not yourself are a parent, we are all sons and daughters and have the capacity to enrich our lives by appreciating what was or was not done for us by our mothers.
Don’t stop with your gratitudes. I promise, they will open a door for you.
Here are mine for today:
Gratitudes for my Mom:
1. I am grateful she sent me to a Lutheran grade school in Chicago where I could meet friends I still love to this day, with common affection for Fritos and for violets at Easter.
2. I am grateful that Mom read so much as an individual and to us.
3. I am grateful for the house she bought after being divorced from my Dad and all the effort she put in to creating a haven for my sisters and me.
4. I am grateful for all the things she saved of mine, like all my alphabet pages from Bethesda Lutheran School.
5. I am grateful for the miles she drove to bring us back to Chicago, after we’d moved north to the U.P., to visit our relatives.
6. I am grateful for the love she cultivated with my Dad’s family, especially my Aunts and Uncles.
7. I am grateful my Mom was so stylish as a young woman, that she had this sort of mysterious past of which we know little.
8. I am grateful for her preparations for us, when we arrived home from somewhere, she’d be in the kitchen preparing a meal.
9. I am grateful for the sound of her singing ‘Turaluralura”.
10. I am grateful for the way she set the table, with a centerpiece and candle, no matter where we were eating.
Last week, when Ben was feeling overwhelmed and tired, I knew it was time to stir up some pudding. My Mom was a stove-top pudding person and I have carried that forward. Alana Chernila’s recipe in The Homemade Pantry is where I started last week. In the middle of making dinner, this recipe keeps you at the stove stirring, which means everyone else has to set the table and wait while you serve it in ramekins.Please don’t be put off by those dark bits of unmelted cocoa. In the face of not having all the right ingredients, I always add my own flourishes to recipes, which sometimes yield less than photogenic results, but believe me this pudding is perfect.
It is worth the effort, every stir is a prayer for ease, confidence, integrity and joy.
May you be happy(Stir) May you be well(Stir) May you be safe. (Stir) May you be peaceful and at ease. (Stir) and there it is, ready for dessert.
If I can offer my teen agers anything these days, it is comfort.
How about you?
What is in your ‘gilded rigatoni’ stash about your mother?