Sunday 8 May 2016

May 8, Mother's Day, 2016

In a few hours it's Mother's Day. A special occasion. I had almost forgotten to prepare myself for the brick to the head that each celebration, big or small, has brought me over the past nine months while my husband and I slowly, painfully - and until tonight, secretly - separate. Tonight we told our daughter; now everybody can know.

Luckily tonight an email from a new friend; we have bonded over loss and shared first times: him newly widowered, me on the road to divorce. Emails at Christmas, New Year's, Valentine's Day: How are you doing? How are you holding up? Way more emotional than I could have guessed. Like being hit by a brick.

His email reminds me to prepare for tomorrow: prepare myself, and prepare my children - no doubt they will be walloped, too.
May from the kitchen window: clematis, wall flower, Japanese Maple
My family doesn't make a huge fuss over me - a cup of chai in bed, or breakfast prepared. School-made cards and gifts from the kids - a happy Mother's Day. Every year I see the garden sale signs (is it Van Dusen or UBC?), but, unless they are away, most of the day is spent at my inlaw's. A family potluck: we take a salad of some sort. Or maybe there will be sushi. The kids play with their cousin and visit the dog. His family is pleasant, but my garden is more sustaining. We drive home in silence - the kids asleep in the back.

My first Mother's Day: the first time I asked my husband for a break. The guilt I felt, wanting to spend this special day alone! Our son was 7 months old, and I was exhausted. Unable to calm him, unable to help him sleep; I needed a few hours alone - a little breather to gather my forces up again to try, try, try.
Seen it all
My only trick was nursing - the Golden Orbs of Milky Goodness: eventually he would grog out; his arms would go limp. I would carefully lift the sleeping baby along with the nursing pillow, hold my breath as I undid the long, noisy Velcro strap that held it around my waist, and gingerly deposit him into his crib. Occasionally the transfer would work and I would sneak out as silently as is possible with these creaky, wooden floors. Usually, he would wake, and the crying would begin again. Rocking, bouncing, singing... we took turns: my husband one night, me the next.

I sang what I knew: Elvis, the Beatles, Buddy Holly, and songs I learned from my parents. "You Are My Sunshine" - bawling in love and despair.  My husband made up wonderful songs on the spot, that rhymed and made sense and were funny. I would listen over the baby monitor as I cleared up the kitchen or sterilised bottles and breast pump parts - a big smile on my face, and a big relief that it wasn't me still up there. Around that time I started using earplugs - the orange squishy kind; they could be found in every pocket and drawer. We soon stopped using the monitor; we could hear him plenty well without it - even with earplugs.

When he was finally asleep and in his crib, I would slide my cheek along his - smooth, cool and very chubby from all that milk - and whisper, "We'll figure it out. I won't give up." I risked waking him, but my heart had grown three sizes larger, and I was dying for connection, hugs, and snuggles. I would peer into his angel face - so beautiful, so peaceful - and make my promise. Kiss his cheeks and eyes and his perfect mouth. His toes and wrists and fingers. Re-draw the invisible string between his forehead and mine that should connect us - no matter how far apart - and resolve to find a way.
Lone, surviving lilac tree, orphaned rhododendron, snowball (Van Dusen - before kids)
I don't remember exactly how I spent that first Mother's day, away from my son, but I know I was at home. I had three - maybe four - hours to enjoy myself, with nothing to do but what I felt like: engage in some activity that gave me energy: gardening, likely, or sewing. Making something from nothing. Giving use to unwanted stuff. The opposite of being fussed over; I wanted to be alone. 

This became our tradition: breakfast with the kids, putter around the garden or house, then off to the in-laws for dinner.

(Except for last year. Last year our daughter had just gotten her scoliosis brace, so we agreed to go swimming - she's allowed to take it off when she swims.)

I hadn't given any thought to what might be the best plan for tomorrow until I got my friend's email. The first Mother's Day of the "Transition"... By now you'd think I'd be prepared for the brick; walloped at Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's, Valentine's, my birthday... and especially "Some Pig Day" - the first of every month: a tradition that, until last week, we had never missed in over 20 years. I've not once anticipated how emotional these day would be. His email reminded me to expect Mother's Day to be the same, only worse; it's the first occasion when our children know we are separating: I'm sure they will be smacked by their own bricks. If I am prepared, maybe I can mitigate some of the emotional onslaught. 

I've spent the evening thinking about how to make this Mother's Day a happy day for everyone. Here is my plan:

Composter - blue turner from my mother-in-law: an excellent tool
I will pick my son up from a birthday sleepover at 10 and take the kids to Dairy Queen - we'll have anything we want. (This is a rare treat for us, due to our daughter's PWS.)

Back at home I will Wait Watch and Wonder - one of the interventions that eventually helped me learn to connect: just hang out with the kids, watch what they're doing, wait for them to engage. Wonderful.

At noon - and well-connected to their mother - my husband will bundle the kids, their tablets, and a veggie tray into his car and head to his sister's for the rest of the tradition. They have been there many times without me, but never on Mother's Day, less than a week before their father is set to move out. Will they find the day as hard as I found Christmas? I would guess so; I will prepare myself for their return - I'll have some fun while they're gone. 

I thought about going to the plant show, but it would be pointless without a garden come August. And sad... I will miss my lovely garden of orphans beyond everything else. 

Instead, I'll get a haircut. Go to the beach - sit on a blanket in the sun. Eat rice pudding. Enjoy the trees and the view. Later I will water my garden in the early evening light, take some pictures, enjoy the house. Maybe cry. I know how to have fun! I'll be ready when the brick hits me, and ready when it hits my children, too; it could even be my best Mother's Day yet. 


  1. Oh my dear friend you are so eloquent as your life crashes......much more than I ever have my undying admiration......I can offer you hope, and this I promise will will right itself, you WILL be happy, your kids WILL be happy, there will be new traditions, new and beautiful gardens and many many Happy Mothers Days......just hang on through the death throes of this life and soon the new growth will spring.

  2. Leah, You have friends in many places - I send you my love and a hope for a better tomorrow. XO
    Well Said Rebecca.