Mamma Mia

Mom avec my brother Tom et moi, Fernandina Beach, circa 1964
Mom avec my brother Tom et moi, Fernandina Beach, circa 1964.
Big splashy holidays like today sometimes still my fingers on the keyboard. Hard to come up with a single original thought at a time when the entire planet is striving to do the same. Besides, to adapt a bit of Lucy Van Pelt, we all know Mother’s Day is just another commercial racket, run by a big Eastern syndicate ā€¦ In this happy vein, I happened upon a Facebook post yesterday that called for a moratorium on all things Mother’s Day. Think of the millions, it asserted, for whom this day brings heartache–those who have lost mothers, and grandmothers, those who have toxic mother-child relationships, those mothers who have lost children and those women who want to be mothers and were never given the chance, for whatever reason.

The post gave me pause. Who am I to share photos and tell stories that might bring pain to so many? Then I thought, hang on a minute, I’m one of them! I’m motherless on this day for the first time, I’ve been grandmother-less for thirty years, and ironically, today is the last day our family calls the house my parents designed and built, the house where I grew up–my mother-home, so to speak–our own. Yes, My Mother’s Attic has disgorged her last mournful scraps. She’s been emptied out and swept clean. Tomorrow, a new family will sign on the dotted line and before long, some other mother, a box of dusty souvenirs in her arms, will bash her shin as she climbs the old girl’s steep wooden stairs. I can hear her cursing under her breath now.

Mother's Day morning, 9 AM delivery from my girl.
Mother’s Day morning, 9 AM delivery from my girl.
I admit I’ve felt pretty wistful the past few days, though really, I can’t complain. I have four healthy children who like me well enough (most days) and all of them called. The youngest even joined us for lunch and my daughter ordered up a vase of roses and lilies from her room at the sorority house. It was delivered at nine am by, who else? A mother! We wished each other well and she didn’t seem the least bit upset to be doing a good turn for another mother lucky enough to be lounging in her pajamas while she made her rounds.

I saw a lot of women my age out today, their living mothers bedecked with corsages and leaning on their arms for support. Funny thing is, they made me feel better. Sure,  when I scroll through the hundreds of tributes posted from sons to mothers and mothers to daughters, every dog, cat and fish to its surrogate mom, I get a little twinge, but I keep at it. Mostly, I smile. Turns out we’re a social species, one that thrives on emotion. Being alive often hurts but maybe in the long run, we do well to open ourselves up to the whole messy shebang–the happy thoughts, the teary memories, the moments of deep gratitude and the ones we can’t help but resent, whether that resentment involves those who have what we don’t, or our very mothers themselves. Maybe it boils down to the obvious: If you’re on this Earth, whether old or young, you have or had a mother, and God knows it doesn’t take long to develop some mixed feelings towards that woman who made you eat Brussels sprouts and called you Sweetie in the school hallway. But even if she did it poorly sometimes, she did what no one else could. She gave you your one particular life.

My grandmother, a cheerful and briskly efficient woman, pictured with my grandfather and my mother at about a year old.
My grandmother Bernice Agnew Lee, a cheerful and briskly efficient woman whom I adored, pictured with my grandfather and my mother at about a year old, circa 1920.

Hope you enjoy these photos of my mother and my two grandmothers, all wearing their Mamma hats (or in Mom’s case, scarf and curlers, like any good mother would, on the beach, in the ’60s.) Happy Mother’s Day everyone, and cheers to you, Mom. I owe you the world.

Generational pic, with handbag :) More importantly, with a true smile from Mom. May 2010.
Generational pic, with handbag šŸ™‚ More importantly, with a true smile from Mom. May 2010.

3 thoughts on “Mamma Mia

  1. Martha – well done. Your writing brings a certain… sense and balance… and is a lot of fun to read. thx, J Gould

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    1. Thank you, Jimmy! I don’t feel particularly balanced about all this but glad it comes through :). Hope you’re well!

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  2. Marth –
    A wonderful picture of you, Mom and Emma – a treasure. You captured “mother feelings” so well, with all of their love and mixed emotions. Amazing how both of our grandmothers have the same beautiful profile and are looking at their babies with such adoration. Universal! Love, JoJo

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