Mother’s Day, A Double-Edged Sword

For me, Mother’s Day is a double-edged sword, as the joy of celebrating mothers is a bit lost on me.   I see others making plans with their moms, writing, Skyping or ringing them up the old-fashioned way–by phone. I see them taking their mothers out for brunch or dinner, and allowing them the much-needed time to put up their feet for a day and relax.  Ahh! Even my own, grown-up kids have sent me flowers and told me how much I mean to them.  My son, Josh, has finally proclaimed in a card that I am “The best mom around!”  Exclamation point and all. Which means, I am no longer just probably the best. Good news, indeed!

But here’s where the double-edged sword comes in: None of these things can I do for my own mother. I cannot make plans with her nor can I pick up the phone and call her. Not since she passed away 17 years ago.

For Mother's Day, my son has been honoring his abuela's memory by giving me a bouquet of tulips. Which means, he knows the way to his mother's heart.

And yet, I can think of tulips. For when I think of my mother, Mary, I think of tulips. These were her favorites, and every year she’d make me plant them with her in our garden. Using a trowel to carve out holes in the soil, I’d push the tulip bulbs deep into the earth. And all the time I’d be sneezing and wheezing, not realizing that the pollen and grass were giving me massive allergy attacks, and that the garden was no place for someone as allergic as I am to the outdoors. But I did it for my mother, who loved to see the flowers in full bloom.

Giving her joy was something I lived for.  One of my favorite things to do was to wait until she’d gone to bed, then sneak downstairs, into the kitchen and give it a good scrubbing. I’d mop the floor and wipe the counters. I’d organize the papers, mail, and magazines that she and the rest of us had accrued throughout the day, and had left scattered on counters, the kitchen table, you name it.  I’d stay awake until two in the morning to make sure the kitchen was perfectly gleaming for when she shuffled in early in the morning to prepare my father’s coffee.

There’s nothing I wouldn’t do for her. For Mother’s Day, I’d save my babysitting money to buy her cologne from Kresge’s, a blouse from Gertz Department Store, or a ceramic butter dish from Fortunoff’s, with a cow smiling from atop the lid. I’d bake Spritz cookies, the only cookies that I learned to bake in Home Economics class, and sprinkle them with sugar. Yes, I’d do anything for one of my mother’s smiles.

She was always so busy throughout the day, taking care of the needs of four kids and our father.  She wouldn’t sit down, except to watch The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson on weeknights and Saturday Night Live on the weekends. Johnny Carson and Gilda Radner made her laugh. My memory of my mother is of her watching these shows with a large stack of newspapers at her side, the only time she got to read.  She’d look for stories of possible interest to her children, and she’d clip and mail them to us. During one year in college, I accumulated well over 100 clippings and I read each one. Human interest stories, articles about current events, celebrities, and hometown news. Long before the Internet, my mother’s clippings were my lifeline to the world beyond my university campus.

On vacation with my mother in Atlantic City, circa 1962.

I would do anything for my mother and yet I feel as though I took her for granted.  I assumed that she’d always be there for me when I needed her—to talk, to offer advice, to share her family stories on summer vacations, and to cook our favorite Venezuelan dishes.  But she’s gone now and I can never get back our time together. Gone with the wind, in a fleeting, blink of an eye.

Some of you will understand how I feel on this particular day. For everyone else, I hope you will take a moment, and please hug your mothers. Tell them how much you love them, not just today, but everyday.  You should know, you should really know,  just how lucky you are!

So, Happy Mother’s Day to all moms everywhere!  As for me, today I’m celebrating with my family, including my dear cousin, Roxanna, who has also lost her mother.

39 thoughts on “Mother’s Day, A Double-Edged Sword

  1. Pingback: In Good Company | Monica's Tangled Web

  2. Thank you for showing me that words can inspire. My purpose was exactly that: to get daughters who still have mothers in their lives to appreciate their time with their moms. I admire that your mom raised 5 children. I have two and raising them has been quite a feat for me. Thank you so much for your hugs and for stopping by! 🙂

  3. Your memories of your mother made me emotional. I adore my mom, and know how much work she put into raising us five kids. I’ll be giving her an extra hug when I see her tomorrow.

    And hugs to you!

  4. Beautiful recollection of your mother. I lost my mother a few years ago, she was my best friend and I miss her dearly. I know we can’t keep our parents around forever, losing both parents is really hard. Enjoyed the post ! Beautiful flowers, my mother loved working with her flower plants, even taking care of the nighborhood plants.

    • I’m so glad you liked this post. Sometimes it takes me quite a while to write a post, but this one was spontaneous, written from the heart in a very short time. I treasure the time I had with my mother and though I knew the day would come when she would no longer be around, it still shocks me to think that I can’t talk to her, hug her, or hear her voice.

  5. What a lovely piece of writing, Monica. I, too, feel Mom’s absence on Mother’s Day even after so many years. What a double-edged sword to celebrate as a mother myself, but not to have my own mother there to share the experience with her. However, for me that day means irises instead of tulips, which you can read about here

    • WordPress, in its infinite wisdom, put your comment in spam. (How dare they!) Which I just discovered. Irises are beautiful, too. Mother’s Day may be a double-edged sword for us, but it’s also a good time to remember what wonderful, amazing mothers we had and, for me, it also reminds me that I can best honor my mother by channeling the best of her in my interactions with my own children. They may not remember my mother/their grandmother, but they know her through me.

    • I’m so sorry about your father. I’ve been living with the loss of both my parents for nearly 20 years. Keep him in your heart, and take comfort in all the good times you had together. I’m glad you found something meaningful in my post. I think losing parents is one of the hardest things we humans have to endure.

  6. Monica,
    I lost my mom 4 years ago and there are still days that I forget and pick up the phone to call her! I really don’t have that extension of myself to share my joys and sorrows with anymore..I miss her greatly.Thanks for sharing your wonderful tribute to your mom.

    • Do you know that it took my siblings an I a whole year before we got up with fortitude to disconnect my parents’ phone? I actually called it a few times just to hear the ring, and for a moment I could believe that any moment they’d pick up. Both my parents died within a few months of each other. The sound of that ring still haunts me.

      Glad you stopped by and enjoyed my post.

  7. Your reflection is beautiful. Thanks for this reminder to appreciate and love on our moms while we still can. My mom is now 80 and has early Alzheimer’s. I did spend the day and evening with her. And I wrote a tribute of sorts on my blog ( I am thankful that despite many rough years, I can fully enjoy my mom today!

    • My mother had Alzheimer’s, too, and died when she was 69. So she had about 66 years of not having this disease. When I think of her, my memories drift to the time before she had Alzheimer’s. When she was still 100% my mother, and knew it, too. I look forward to checking out your post.

  8. I’m with you, Monica…my mom died 3 1/2 years ago…Mother’s Day is hard for me! Luckily, I’ve got the best mother-in-law in the world!

    Happy Mother’s Day to you!


  9. This is wonderful, Monica. A very moving piece. I feel the same way, having lost my beautiful mother when I was 18. I wish I could DO for her. I used to make her real coffee, timed perfectly for when she came home from work (this was long before the proliferation of Starbucks). I’d cook for her. Clean, too.
    I wish I could take her out for a meal. Buy her a beautiful blouse or her favorite perfume.
    The thing that salvaged Mother’s Day for me is my two beautiful daughters. But it’s always bittersweet.

    • I’m so glad your daughters are there for you, to brighten your Mothers Day. My daughter is away at school, but it was truly a delight having my son here, celebrating with me for the first time in years.

  10. Hi Monica, what a lovely tribute! That’s the best mother’s day card I’ve ever seen. Thank you for reminding me to call my mother more often whilst I still can. xxx, isabelle PS They do say break a leg here and I didn’t get it but I’ve got another one for a role in a soap later on today!!

    • That’s my point. It’s too late for me. I’m glad you got the point of my post. It’s not too late for you.

      Can’t wait to hear about the soap audition. I love soaps, so by all means, break a leg! 🙂

  11. Very touching post. I love these snippets of your mom and what you remember about her. I always wonder what will be the key memories of my mom that will be the most important to me after she’s gone.

    • Snippets. I love that word. It’s like I have so many snippets and together they form a necklace of memories, which is all that remains of my mother. It’s these snippets that help to keep me going. Thank you for giving me something to think about.

  12. Monica, what a deeply moving and touching post! I could feel the nostalgia and feelings of loss in your words. Indeed, it’s vital to not take our mothers for granted and yet sadly, that’s what many of us do. I’m fortunate to still have my mother, who is going through a difficult time since my father passed away scarcely a year ago. This has been a difficult day for her since daddy is no longer with her. I take the time to call my mum every day and really listen to her voice, her advice, her laughter…as if committing it to memory. You know? I really can’t envision life without my mom’s guidance and advice. It’s too painful to even think about. Hugs to you, my friend. May you get through this day in the knowledge that a mother’s love always remains with you, even when she’s physically gone.

    • Thank you, Bella. Hugs to you, too. I’ve met some wonderful people through blogging, you included, and I’m so grateful. The comments have been so comforting to me. Every year, though the pain has softened, it’s days like today that bring it back. Plus, my mother died Memorial Day weekend and that’s coming up. May, in general, is not a good month for me.

  13. It’s been 26 years since my mom died and not a day goes by that I don’t think of her. Our bond with our mothers is not even broken by death. At least we are given the gift of being mothers ourselves. This is a lovely post. I wish you the happiest Mother’s Day ever! BTW, gorgeous tulips! Your son did well! 🙂

    • Thank you for sharing about your own mom. I spent much of my life dreading losing her and when I did, it was the shock of my life. The pain has dulled, but she’s always there. In little things. I remember once buying some stamps and they were so pretty, these stamps. I burst into tears because my mother enjoyed collecting such stamps and I just knew she would have loved these.

      Today has been sweet for its the first time in years that I’m getting to spend this holiday with my son. He’s been great and yes, his tulips are just the thing! 🙂

  14. Your mami, Marïa, was a beautiful woman, tanto por fuera q. por dentro. I haven’t been hanging out here much lately, too busy, but could not resist reading this today. My mami, gracias a Dios, is still alive, but I’m not with her today, regrettably, because we are 2,000 miles apart. I hope she can visit me this summer. I always miss her and wish she was close by.

    You carry her inside you and are connected forever. Ultimately, that is the lesson of a mother’s love–whether she is the one who gave birth to you or the one who gave you the constant love that you needed–that it is always there inside of you.

    ¡Que vayas con Dios miamor!

    • Ana Maria, It’s good to hear from you. Yes, it has been a while, so I’m really glad you’ve stopped by again. I hope your mami is able to come out this summer.

      I’ll never forget the only time my mother was able to visit me here in San Diego. I had just moved here. She traveled from New York with a very large, very fragile vase on her lap, that had once belonged to her mother. It was all she could do to get it here. She stayed a few weeks and, during that time, I saw the beginning of the onset of her dementia. It was the last trip she ever made on her own. That was 20 years ago and I still have the vase, one of my most prized possessions. I’m sending you and your mami, lots of hugs y recuerdos on this, most special day. 😉

  15. This is great Monica. I moved away from my parents when my first child was born so my mother missed out on a lot of happiness with her grandchildren.
    From the other side of the world, I wrote a letter to my parents thanking them for all the love and support they had given me when I was growing up.
    My mother never commented on that letter to me but in later life (after she had died) my father told me how much they both appreciated it.
    So I encourage everybody to tell their parents, siblings, cousins and friends how much they mean to them. It is no good telling the gathering at the funeral how much this person means to them.
    Thanks you for sharing your memories with us.


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  17. This is beautiful Monica! It is so easy for us to take our loved ones for granted. Thank you for the reminder to be more present and grateful!

    I love that your son brought you tulips to honor your mother and to celebrate you!

    Have a Happy Mother’s Day! Celebrate for you, for your children and for all those women who came before us, so that we may be here now!

    • I love that, too. He’s a special kid, my son. His heart is definitely in the right place. Each year, when he’s given me the tulips, I’ve become overwhelmed with a rush of emotions and memories of my mother. This year was no exception.

  18. This is wonderful Monica. Your recollection the clippings sent by your mom made me remember how my mum, gone not quite a year, also did the same. At one point, I was so undone by finding them in drawers, in piles of papers etc. that I wanted to go through and get rid of them all. Now, I am enjoying these rediscoveries and hope they continue for years, like little gifts from beyond. Thanks for sharing

    • Those clippings are a treasure trove. I didn’t save all the ones my mother sent me but once in a while, I find one. And these clippings say as much about her and her interests as they do about me and mine. What would we do without them?

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