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May 07, 2009

Mother's Day Matters

Mothers_day_card1-1 When my kids are around, they make a fuss over me on Mother's Day.  And I love it.  

I don't care if it's a day manufactured by the florists and Hallmark.   To me it's the most important holiday of the year.  It's something to celebrate.

I don't care if I get flowers or a card.  I care about the sentiment.  I take it seriously.  Mother's Day matters. 

It started mattering the year I had the most memorable Mother's Day of my life.

 I wasn't even a mother yet.

 I was a freshman at Cornell.    One day the phone rang in my dorm and it was my father calling to arrange a Mother's Day surprise for my mom.   She had just gone into the hospital for a back problem, and he wanted me to fly home and surprise her, just for the day.

It sounded really cool.   I wouldn't have to come up with a real gift.  I loved surprises.  We hatched a plan.

My boyfriend drove me from upstate New York to the city---6 hours in his old red and white VW bus.  Early in the morning of Mother's Day, I flew from La Guardia to Miami---- excited and eager to be my mother's special delivery surprise gift.

I abandoned my jeans and wore a cute outfit specially for the occasion---with a matching floppy hat.   I didn't bring a suitcase, just a purse---I was now part of the jet set. 

When I arrived in Miami,  I took a taxi directly to Jackson Memorial Hospital.   I didn't stop to consider the oddity of this.   We lived just a few blocks from Mount Sinai Hospital, the private hospital of choice for pretty much anything if you lived on Miami Beach.   By contrast, Jackson Memorial was downtown Miami, inner city, a large, no-frills teaching hospital affiliated with the University of Miami Medical School.  At the time, I never knew anyone who had ever been there.  

I was so enamored by my jet set lifestyle that the hospital selection never sent up a warning light in my brain.   I expected to find my glamorous mother in traction, greeting me with a big smile, a fancy silk robe, and her ever-present pearl necklace.   I jumped out of my cab and exuberantly bounced upstairs, ready to spring into my mother's hospital room in my cute little outfit and hat.

 My entrance---in fact, the whole episode,  was like a scene stuck into the wrong movie. 

My mother was surprised; she even cried.  So that part worked.   And she was happy to see me, and she did notice my cute outfit, and my father was there, and it was Mother's Day. 

But there was nothing festive about the atmosphere in that room.  It was medicinal.   And my mother matched the scene.   There was no pearl necklace, no glamour, no traction.  She didn't look like a 41-year old healthy woman having a little back trouble, who would soon be back to normal.  She looked weak, and suddenly, frail.

 I had no idea---and no one told me-- that this is how a person looks who is dying of cancer. 

 No one told me.  And I spent those few precious hours on Mother's Day telling my mom the latest on my boyfriend.  Then I took a cab back to the airport and flew back to La Guardia, to Ithaca, and my life.

Two months after I surprised my mother on Mother's Day, she surprised me.

Suddenly our beautiful, vibrant mother was gone. 

She would never be there for another Mother's Day---or for any other day.  Or for any moment that mattered for the rest of my life. 

Which is why, and when, Mother's Day began to matter.

Because even though I've lived WITHOUT her for so many more years than I ever had WITH her, my mother still matters. 

Because being a mother myself matters more than anything else I've ever done.

Because every mother matters.  Whether she's here or not. It may not always be "Happy", but Mother's Day matters. 

No matter how you feel about your own mother, in most of our lives there is a mother that matters.  With or without the florists and Hallmark. 

So celebrate a mother you know.  Celebrate the mother you have.  Celebrate the mother you are.

This is an original post to 50-Something Moms Blog.

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