Saturday, May 7, 2011

On Mothers' Day

My mother died a week before my twentieth birthday. She was forty-seven. I’m thirty-three now. I still remember the color of her hair, the impish curve of her smile when she knew (or thought) she was right, although I often feel like I’ve forgotten the exact sound of her voice, that daily cadence our lives had before she slumped in the early morning hours from a heart attack while the rest of us slept.

I write this not to solicit pity for so universal an event as the sadness over a parent’s death, but to point out that I’m sure I’m not alone in feeling a certain awkward nostalgia whenever Mothers’ Day rolls around.

Maybe it has something to do with suddenly being neck-deep in emails with subject lines like: Show your mother you love her with a bouquet, a spa treatment, a ceramic angel, or any one of a thousand other gifts you could give to your literal maker so she won’t think you’re an ungrateful SOB!

Just this evening, I got to thinking how unabashedly rude we’d call it if someone—anyone—we knew showed up on our doorstep and squealed Happy Fathers’ Day to a household still mourning a dead father, or Happy Valentine’s Day to a woman whose husband had just died of cancer. Somehow, though, we cut advertising companies slack, even though their irrefutable purpose is just to bet on the odds, to tug the viewing majority’s heartstrings into spending more money.

Am I pleading for a world in which faceless corporations give equal time to the grieving? No, of course not. The past we long for probably never existed, anyway. No, I’m just saying that whenever the holidays roll around, we owe it to ourselves—maybe not as citizens or consumers, but at least as people—to remember those who might not feel as we do, and more importantly, those who do not have what others won’t know to (or maybe necessarily can't) appreciate until it’s gone.

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