Monday, May 11, 2015

Mother's Day

My hands are smaller than hers were, and less calloused.  I can only wear her wedding ring on my right hand, my larger hand, and even then it is too big for my ring finger.  I have to wear it on my middle finger, the one reserved for insults

It is a simple, textured gold band with tiny diamond chips in it.  It is a sign of love lost, of a failed marriage, of hopes dashed.  My parents were married young, and I don't know if they ever completely figured out what marriage was supposed to be.  They were both stubborn and often selfish.  My mother's parents had been abusive, and her dad had cheated on her mom.  My father's parents were far more stable, but were "old-fashioned" by the cultural standards of the mid-1970's and their example didn't really work for my parents.

Over twenty years, two daughters, and countless pets later, my parents' divorce was final within days of what would have been their anniversary.

On my finger, the ring feels foreign.  Heavy.

Although I lost three children to miscarriage, I believe I have been a mother since the very moment the first one was conceived.  Still, yesterday was the first time I celebrated Mother's Day with tangible proof of that status - a chubby, giggling, happy baby boy.

I had a wonderful time - lunch with family, and a movie with friends, plus flowers and a beautiful card from my husband, but "Mother's Day" felt hollow.

Is it because I know that Mother's Day is a "Hallmark Holiday" designed for increased card and gift sales?  Is it because my heart still aches for the women I know for whom motherhood is not an option?  Is it because, despite all the incredible, loving, and motherly women in my life, I no longer have my own mother?

Yesterday, my Facebook feed was full of beautiful pictures.  Some were old and faded, photos from thirty years ago, or more, of mothers holding sweet-faced babies.  Some were black-and-white.  Some were laughable, as the hairstyles and clothing were so dramatically dated.  Some were more recent, a radiant, shining bride with her modestly-dressed but still-stylish mother.  Some were accompanied by wonderful thoughts about motherhood, thank-you notes to moms who sacrificed everything, to moms who were strong in the face of adversity, moms who accepted disappointments, moms who never gave up.

Memories of my own mother are fading from my mind.  The ones that remain are not kind and tender moments.  I know she told me she loved me.  I know she sacrificed so much so that I could participate in school activities.  She went back to work full-time after nearly two decades of staying home.  I know she was extremely proud of my sister and me, as we were great students and continually excelled at school.  Neither she nor my father had gone to college, so her endless refrain was "Get an education and a good job so you can take care of yourself".  It was as if she thought, if she said it enough, it would spare her daughters the pain, financial trauma, and heartache that her divorce had caused her.  (Poor lady, she didn't realize both her kids would major in the fine arts and end up on the low-paying end of the medical field.)

Almost more than I want my mother back in my life, I want those memories back.  Memories of laughter and silliness, memories of birthdays and parties and quiet times watching the snow fall, silent, in the backyard.  Memories of a fearless mother who came to the rescue every time a wasp hovered menacingly near a sunbathing child on the deck.  Memories of an indignant mother who went to bat for her bullied babies.  Memories of a creative mother who carefully piped frosting fantasies onto birthday cakes every year - no matter how ridiculous the request.  Those memories are still here, but they are hazy.  I want the full-color, glossy versions back.  Another year and these ghosts might be gone.

On my left hand, my engagement ring and replacement wedding band are a bit grimy-looking.  They are caked with hairspray and dish soap, and I don't get them cleaned as often as my husband suggests.  Yet they are still vibrant, the signs of hope after loss, the promise of working through trouble, the humility that comes with admitting a wrong.

Two hands - two choices.

Each time I pick up my mother's ring, I think of how she presented it to me.  I, the elder daughter, received her gold wedding band.  My younger sister got her silver engagement ring.  "I don't need them anymore anyway," we heard as she handed them to us with a shrug.  "Lotta good they did me."  I remember the sarcasm in her voice now more keenly than when I'd heard it the first time.

And I ache.

I still ache for the women who cannot become mothers.  I ache for those without mothers, who lost them or never had them to begin with.  But, perhaps, most of all, I ache for the fading memories I have of my own mother as a mother.  I can never make more, and the sweetness of them is slowly dripping away, a little bit each day.