At my local grocery this morning, the flower scene was in full bloom, so to speak. Flowers everywhere–tossed on the check out counter, held by shoppers, pinned on chests. So many flowers, in fact, that if I don’t see a flower till I die, it won’t make a difference.
Don’t get me wrong, I am crazy about flowers, all colors, all varieties particularly wild ones, all shapes, all species, especially when they come into my sphere of vision out of nowhere, by surprise. But this orgy of flowers on Mothers’ Day weekend verges on parody, a macabre display of desire and conformity and excess. And parody is melodrama in another guise, the fuel of our shopping mania, the tools for holding emotions hostage, for not allowing them to blossom and then fade away, as everything must. “Intimacy passes,” writes Richard Rodriguez. So does everything else. But parody and melodrama insist on staying and sucking the life out of the original spark, enhanced no doubt with the verbiage of appreciation and celebration.
No, I am not a grouch, far from it. But this whole thing of praising mothers to high heaven once a year carries in its underbelly something dark, some loyalty to perfection. As a British psychologist said, the thing is to be a good enough mother. Not excellent, not great, just good enough. For who knows what an excellent mother is? Bertolt Brecht said there are two kinds of mothers: Those who hold their children close to their bosom in a stifling embrace and those who gently push them into the world, who know that in the end it is our duty to “lose” that what we love the most, our children. To lose them to the world and its troubles and joys, to lose them to becoming something other than ourselves while continuing to love them, protect them, provide stability for them with very fiber of our body.
Most of us fall into motherhood as we fall into love. We fall and then flounder. Whether we were good or bad mothers comes only in hindsight, as does everything else in life, only when we look back and try to find meaning. The rest is false starts, small joys, a lot of drudgery, and moments of paradise. In the end, like all forms of love, it comes down to looking out, paying attention, and protecting. All this, as best we can– and being unafraid to show those who matter in our lives that we, too, are fragile, at times lonely, at times troubled, always full of contradictions and doubts about who we are, what our mission in life is.
How do we honor this wonderful, wild mess of mothers and children? And do we need to honor it or simply live it, live with it and through it, and be somehow changed by it, so that our own mothers may not recognize us, may see something utterly new in us when we meet on some wayward shore, far off in some corner of the world–they, who pushed us gently into the perilous world, their hearts full of anxiety and trepidation.
And if we meet there, Anahid–dear mother of mine long gone–I doubt I will have a nice, $12.99 bouquet for you. More like an outstretched hand, a battered heart, my eyes lakes of tears. I’ll have a lot to tell you, we’ll have so much to talk about into the night, as we did when I was young and you were ambivalent and a bit confused but quirky and intelligent though not always positive, affectionate. Not perfect though you meant well!