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Por Las Madres

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Here we are again, people. Another year, another Mothers Day.

First things first: Does anyone know if ‘Mothers’ gets an apostrophe here? I’ve never known. It’s something for all mothers, so it’s plurally owned, which would give it an apostrophe after the ‘s’,  right? But it’s also for each individual mother, which would put the apostrophe before the ‘s’. On the other hand, ownership isn’t really at issue here, is it? So no apostrophe anywhere. Anybody know what the correct usage is – or even where to look it up?

I’ve decided to go with the Path of Least Resistance, as my friend Robin Kramer calls her life philosophy, and drop the apostrophe altogether.

Moving right along….if you saw the poll I put up a few days ago, then you know I’m wondering how mothers actually feel about this holiday. The truth is, I’ve never known exactly how I myself feel about it. When you have a feminist analysis of the world, everything becomes some sort of conflict. And Mothers Day, which is about what I consider the primero women’s issue, is rife with conflict. When I first rejected all conventional wisdom four decades ago (ouch!), my perspective on this day was cut and dried: we’re oppressed as mothers all year long – hard work, no pay, no respect – and then they give us one lousy day. Blatant tokenism.

Unfortunately, this analysis leaves no room for reality. It doesn’t take into account the children, or any familial dynamics. I mean, what do you say to a ten-year-old who carves “MOM” into a wooden block in school and presents it as a paperweight present? Do you refuse the burnt toast and watery coffee they ceremoniously deliver to your bed Sunday morning? Grumble about oppression and the patriarchy? Of course not: like every mother, conventional or not, you wipe the tears from your eyes, force down the toast, and plant the paperweight on your desk where it remains for the rest of your natural life.

Even greater than the feminist angle, though, it’s the politics of holidays, any holiday, that drives me nuts. Because I don’t work a 9-to-5 job, from which most holidays bring relief, I pretty much hate them. Oh, I kinda like Thanksgiviing for the food, and Passover for the celebration of freedom (and the food), but in general I find holidays an intrusive burden. With the media amped up for every one of them, there’s no escape from awareness of an upcoming holiday, ever. I find it intolerable. No matter what the holiday or its purpose, the pressure to conform crushes my psyche as if a boulder is bearing down on me. What kills me is the conformity inherent in a holiday. You have to do more or less (familial and cultural variations permitted) what everyone else is doing on that day. Otherwise you’re a grouch, a curmudgeon, negative, a traitor, lacking spirit, no fun, party-pooper… let me count the labels. It’s nearly impossible to explain to children. Relatives and friends are equally baffled if you don’t participate.

If you don’t break down, if you somehow manage to avoid doing whatever it is you’re supposed to be doing, don’t think you’ll get off scot free, oh no. Don’t think for one minute that you’re going to feel liberated. The culture brainwashed us long ago, so we feel guilty if we choose not to participate. And if it’s not a choice – if, say, you have nobody to spend the holiday with – you feel sorry for yourself. It doesn’t matter that I don’t want to go to a crowded restaurant tonight  in a pastel suit wearing a corsage: if neither of my kids wants to take me, I’ll conclude it’s because I’m a wretch.

As it happens, my daughter lives in Los Angeles, just far enough to make a visit a major event, necessitating airplanes and packed clothing. Thus, I haven’t spent a single Mothers Day with her since she became a mother herself  – which is fine with both of us. She knows I like getting cards from my grandsons, and she’s taught them to sit down and draw a picture and write some variation of You’re the best Grandma. This year she also sent a stunning flower arrangement.

Because he lives nearby, my son gets stuck with the full responsibility, and suffers his own conflicts and inadequate feelings. A few years ago I took him off the hook when I said I was finished with going out to eat in a noisy roomful of strangers, so we put a merciful end to that ritual. Which leaves us dangling uneasily, both feeling we’re supposed to do something, neither of us wanting to do it.

This year we got lucky: the Yankees play the Red Sox later today. The Yanks demolished Boston in their first two games, and the Sox are doing so poorly this season, it’ll probably be a sweep. I’m so glad that when I shout Get out the Broom! it won’t be to sweep the house.

Have a lovely day, ladies, how ever you choose to spend it.

Post Post: Somehow I neglected to mention another difficult aspect of this day: the billions of people whose mothers are no longer on the material plane, some of whom were lost to us at a brutally early age. My mother only died a few years ago, but her death has certainly added another element to this day. It’s another intrusive thing about holidays: they bring a sharp reminder of who’s not here, a list that grows longer every year.


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