You know how when you have to have surgery and you have those instructions that say that you can’t have anything by mouth after midnight. A guideline, of course, that on any other night of your life would be no big deal, because you would be sleeping anyway, but once it becomes a rule you have to follow, it means you will be so thirsty that all you want, all night long, is another sip of water. And even if you drank at 11:59pm, you’d feel at 12:01am like you have been walking through a desert for hours and the only thing you can think about is how much you’d give anything to have a single. sip. of. water.
When my mom was alive, I dreaded the obligation of calling or going to see her. I would complain endlessly before and after most phone calls and visits, and when I wasn’t complaining about them, I was breathing a sigh of relief that they were over, knowing that I was able to put off another one for another few days or a week if I could get away with it.
But then came Mother’s Day, and so I was of course surrounded by all the Hallmark reminders of mothers. And because I am a mother, this holiday obviously has special meaning for me, and I think that was why I felt so guilty about being so bittersweet about it this year. After all, I spent the day with my beautiful children, and I didn’t have to think about heading to a nursing home where I don’t want to be to exchange gifts and platitudes with a woman who for the last several years of her life struggled to deserve them from me.
And that is just it, y’all. I didn’t have to. But in the days preceding Mother’s Day, I wanted to. I wanted one more phone call, one more visit, one more chance to tell her the latest funny Abby story or something amazing Emma had learned in school. I wanted to talk about the royal wedding and the fact that we finally got Bin Laden. Yet, I don’t want anything else that would come along with it, none of the complications, none of the obvious denial on her part about her true condition and the clear choices she made to allow herself to get to where she was. So … I want what I can’t have.
In the end, I feel like this is what actually makes me a mother. When we are with our children, all we want is peace and quiet and a break. When they are away from us, all we want is to see them and hear their voices and feel their sweet kisses and hugs. When they are little, we just want to sleep, please for the love of God, just sleep. And then suddenly, they are growing up and we are sleeping and yet we find ourselves missing those middle-of-the-night moments when all of the world around us was quiet and still, and we got to experience the pure bliss that comes with a baby in our arms, snuggled up, simply needing us to be there. We wish the time away and then cry because we can’t get it back again. So often, on so many days, we want what we can’t have.
- Charity Lemonade Stand, Mother’s Day 2011