I’m kind of looking forward to Mother’s Day. I’ve got my eye on a lilac standard to replace what a large tree hath wrought into sticks. And there is the Saturday afternoon mani-pedi, providing my son-in-law can handle the grandkids. An early brunch someplace delicious, and an indulgent afternoon watching the kids try to destroy the baby tomato plants and prematurely deadhead flowers, after they’ve shoved as much gravel as possible into the grills of the hapless cars sitting in the driveway. But what I am really looking forward to is The Card.
In the hands of my noneffusive child, The Card is where it all comes out: the real sentiment behind my daughter’s appreciation of me; the one thing I carry away from Mother’s Day.
There were years without cards. Her son was born two weeks after one Mother’s Day, after several weeks of false starts and a lot of nerves. I bided my time. Two years later, she was pregnant with her daughter on Mother’s Day and exhausted after hernia surgery. I didn’t even think about a card.
If I lined them all up, I would see a progression from “You’re the Best Mom” kinds of cards through funny, often sardonic ones. I have been teased and roasted and promised snickering retribution: “I will always take care of you (even if you don’t deserve it).” Of course, I only really absorbed the first part, and our long history gives lie to the phrase in parentheses, but I am forewarned not to be too crotchety at that stage in my life.
The warmth of her love, however, is evident in what she thanks me for in her cards. As parents, most of us give whatever we can, gladly, lovingly, sometimes erring on the side of too much. But what do our kids feel about what we give? As it turns out, it’s often what to us is the little stuff.
One winter afternoon I got a phone call from her. She was having problems at college. She was very unhappy and couldn’t find her way through her coursework. I heard something in her voice and was in Boston in less than four hours. I did not leave until things were sorted out. She still talks about it. And it was mentioned that year in The Card.
When she was little and I was a single mom, there wasn’t a lot of money. We’d take meandering rides in the country on Sunday mornings. She would get to tell me “right” or “left” as if she were doing the driving and guiding our explorations. And she would hold my hand as we drove. A small and pure intimacy between mother and child.
The hand-holding stopped long before adolescence. Except for one incident that took me by surprise. On her way home for Christmas break, her old Honda loaded up, including one cat, her boyfriend was driving on an interstate when the front axle broke. Somehow and miraculously, they were near an exit and he was able to control the car down the ramp and out of harm’s way. I rushed up to New England again and found two very shaken young people stunned that they hadn’t been killed. We transferred everything to my car, and she sat in the front seat and held my hand all the way home.
I cherish that memory. And every single Card she has ever given me: the real gifts, with the occasional hand-holding, that tell me, sometimes sentimentally or with a little wickedness and humor, of some small, special piece of her love for her mama.