Sunday, May 9, 2010

Mother's Day

There is a story I remember (but not the title, unfortunately) where a woman is on trial for the murder of her mother.  At last the woman is allowed to take the stand in her own defense, to testify why she couldn't do such a heinous act.  She does not confess, nor does she incriminate herself, she merely states that she did not understand how different the world would be without her mother:  the silence, the lack of grounding, the abscence of someone who loved her in the very best way she knew how.

The very best she knew how.  What does that mean?  We often hold up mothers to pretty tough scrutiny.  They must love unconditionally, they must be willing to die for their children, they must sacrafice without complaint.  Wide, melodramatic statements that should have a breast beating in there somewhere.  But what if that's not the case? 

I hazard to say that it's a dirty little secret, but not all mothers love their children smack out of the shoot.  And for the collicky, screaming, no hope for sleep infants, she might be ready to walk out that door.  But it is that very ability to stick to it, to get up at 2 am when she's had 2 hours of sleep and walk and rock and walk and rock until she can't see straight, to allow her robe to absorb blood, spit, puke and tears, to be willing to have her heart broken a million times just to feel that pang of overwhelming love that defines what it means to be a mother.  The ability to be there.  The ability to stay.

Mothers are oft the first to be judged and the last to be forgiven, but they know us, or knew us.  They understood what dust mosts looked like dancing on the last of  the afternoon sun rays coming in from the den's window; they understood why it was so necessary to give a home to that flea-bitten stray cat with bad teeth and a worse temper, they understood why you had to say goodbye and drive away to college.

My own mother has the most amazing hands.  Small, slight, nimble things with perfect half moon nails.  They have sewn, cleaned, typed, and probably flipped the bird to some poor New Jersey driver during her eighty plus years.  They are quick witted things like their owner.  Despite the ying and yang of mother daughter love, I cannot look upon my mother's hands and not be moved.  I reached out to those fingers, I reach out to them even now.

And She is there.


  1. Oh Sarah that was lovely and had me sniffling. I was lucky to spend Mother's Day with my mom, not doing anything special mind you just hanging out. That is always the best time spent! Hope your day was just as relaxing. Big HUG!

  2. I love what you have written about your mother. My mother left when I was 4 years old, and rarely looked back, what you have written does not make me sad, simply reminds me what I need to do for my 3 babies (2 yo twins and 3 yo) - the ability to stay.

  3. This was a very moving post. It spoke very dearly to me. My mother passed away when I was fifteen when we were in a car accident and I'm still convinced the woman somehow had a hand in me surviving since the car was barely recognizable and I walked away with a gash on my head and a few humps and bruises. The part of your story that got me was when you spoke of your mother's hands. I had the exact same fascination with my own mother's hands. They were beautiful; they were also the last thing I touched before I allowed her to be buried. I remember grabbing her hand quickly before they closed the casket. In short, your post was very powerful and soothing to me. Thank you.