The Next Hard Holiday

I don’t like to think of myself as a particularly self-centered person. The needs and wants and preferences of all of my family members are always at the top of my mind. I try to check in with my friends on a regular basis, seeing if they need anything or just want to vent. When my coworkers are stressed, I offer to help and try to share the burden. When my dog doesn’t feel well, I hand-feed him special homemade food, letting him lick brown rice and chicken shreds from between my fingers. What I’m trying to say is that I know it’s not always all about me.

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And yet. I remember in my early 20s, I suddenly got annoyed that the print on road signs and billboards was too small. I complained to anyone who would listen about how unsafe it was or how dumb it was to waste money on an ad that no one could read.

After a couple of weeks of this, my coworker Beth gently suggested to me that I should maybe see an eye doctor because she had no problem reading any of the signs we saw while driving to lunch every day.

“That’s ridiculous,” I told her. “I have always had perfect vision! I actually wanted glasses as a kid, but they always said my eyes were fine.”

“Humor me,” she said.

When I finally went to the optometrist, my vision was so bad that they wouldn’t let me drive myself home. I’ve worn glasses or contacts ever since, and I can read all the road signs and billboards just fine now.

I’ve started to feel that same sense of, “How dare they!” again lately, though, this time regarding what seem like inescapable advertisements for Mother’s Day.

I know, logically, that my losing my mother is at once an experience unique to me – so it’s absolutely insane and the height of selfishness to feel like the marketing of an entire holiday should just stop because it makes me sad – and also a sadly universal experience – so I shouldn’t feel quite so lonely or singled out every time an ad comes on reminding me to buy flowers or jewelry or make brunch reservations “for Mom’s special day!”

But I still do. My mom died last year on the Tuesday before Mother’s Day, her last-ever text to me about making strawberry scones to celebrate the upcoming holiday, and I was too numb and shell-shocked to even really hurt much on the actual day itself last year.

This year, though … ouch. The one-year anniversary somehow makes the holiday extra-raw. I don’t have it in me to hear flowery tributes about a mother’s love or testimonials about the transformative power of motherhood. I mostly want to burrow under the covers and eat potato chips and watch true crime documentaries and cry until the day is over.

I need to remember, though, that I am a mother, too, now. My kids want to celebrate me, and even if I don’t feel much like celebrating, I am so lucky to have them here to cheer me up.

So this year, I will lean into it – into the pain of being a motherless daughter, yes, because that is the price you pay for loving someone – but also into the joy and love of being a mother to my daughters – into the homemade cards, the hokey art projects, the slightly gross breakfast in bed.

Because, after all, even as a mother on Mother’s Day – maybe especially as a mother on Mother’s Day – it isn’t all about me.