Mom's the word

Published on: 5/8/2011

Mother's Day is about the mother you have, should you still have one, more than it is about the mother you are, should you be one. But maybe we should shift the emphasis.

Unless your mother was from the Mommie Dearest school of mental illness and depravity, chances are you are painting her in the light of near sainthood today. This is the day we pay homage to the best in our mothers, and with generosity forget about the rest. Since I no longer have a living mother, I've been ruminating about what it means to become a mother worthy of the real and ritual forgetting of the faults, heaping of the fond memories, putting aside of the wrongs done.

My mom was a wonderful woman, no doubt about it. Still, she had her quirks. Reverse snobbery was one. It came from protectiveness, but she was deeply distrusting of my friends who came from wealthy, highly educated families. She didn't want anybody to hurt or think they were better than her beloved cubs. I try to remember this when the Sarah Palins of the world sneer at the articulate and well-informed. Or when I fall into my own deep distrust of those who claim authority or superiority over me.

Mom was also a master of the freeze. She could go silent for weeks. Anyone who lives with a cold shoulderer knows how awful that can be.

Still, my own in-the-thick-of-it failings were much worse than Mom's. One bedroom door is tattered and warped from a crazy period when I couldn't handle stress, when I felt alone in the world, when I reacted with "wooden swearing:" the slamming of doors.

Since I am sometimes a little oblivious, the universe has taken to delivering messages in odd ways. Once a postcard fell from the sky into my hands. A house in the neighborhood had exploded, and I just happened to be walking by at the time. Today a book fell from the bookcase, knocking me ever so slightly upside the head.The title: How to Behave So Your Children Will, Too.

It was clear enough whose behavior is on the line here: Mom's. In this case, mine.

If I live to be as old as my parents, I've got nearly 30 years to get it right. Or at least more right. A few decades to deserve the title Mother and the flowers and brunches that go with it.

Thanks, Mom, for being flawed and wonderful, a whole person. For showing us how to love and how to keep growing for as long as we have in this beautiful, difficult, world. And for sending me messages now and then, in whatever ways they appear.