Today we are doing something a little different in this space. My dear friend Sue Crowley is visiting us to share her thoughts on what she rightly calls “the deeply complicated day” that is Mother’s Day.
Sue is a surgical children’s nurse with a heart that pulses with compassion and creativity. Through sharing some memories of her own mum, who she lost seventeen years ago now, Sue speaks for all those who find Mother’s Day carries extra freight.
In the lead-up to Mother’s Day I hope Sue’s words encourage those who struggle: Know you are not alone.
Further, I hope that they prompt all of us to look around and see the many different faces of this day.
I know this is Sue’s hope.
And I know her words already spoke to me.
This is my Mum
Her name was Beryl….
She wore ‘Lilly of the Valley’ perfume
On rainy afternoons she would make pikelets
She was in charge of my hair for the first six years of my life
You could find her on the sidelines cheering me on at T-Ball (even though I was hopeless)
Nobody has ever made gingerbread as good as her
I still can’t look at Fruit Loops without hearing her voice in my head: ‘There’s more nutrition in the cardboard box than in the cereal!’
Not that I would want to eat the stuff nowadays
I inherited her thick wavy hair, her sun spot prone skin and her gentle disposition
She once vomited out her false teeth and accidentally flushed them away down the toilet
I remember a time she specifically went out of her way to buy some meat pies for a homeless man
He came home for a cup of tea and a chat.
She worked many night shifts at the local nursing home looking after the old folks
She came home with funny and tender stories. They had setbacks with their false teeth too
Her empathetic ear was always ready when I needed to complain about how I loathed school swimming carnivals
She instilled in her children a love of libraries
She endured reading us “The Little Red Hen” probably no less than 17 000 times
Mercifully she turned a blind eye when I hid behind the lounge on Tuesday nights past my bedtime to ‘secretly’ watch ‘A Country Practice’
She indulged us with choo choo bars for special treats
When she knew she was dying she taught herself to crochet
And made a pink and a blue bunny rug for grandchildren she knew she would never meet
She died on a Sunday evening.
A Deeply Complicated Day
I have always found Mothers Day a day of mixed emotions. I know many people do for a whole plethora of reasons. It’s a deeply complicated day.
There is much I could say, many stories I know that are secretly buried in the hearts of my friends today as they put on brave faces and hold back the tears in the midst of the surrounding flurry of celebratory family lunches, flowers, new slippers and ‘stand up if you’re a mother’ church services.
For some the happiness and grief is confusingly simultaneous. There are miscarriages, empty arms, strained or broken relationships, wayward children, disability, sickness, biological or circumstantial infertility, loss, grief and disappointment.
To those who know such things, I want to say I see you. I think about you on days like these and I’m not the only one who does.
I think it is good to honour mothers, mothering and motherhood. To esteem the women who love sacrificially, nurture, instruct, and invest deeply into the next generation. Both in families and in society, biological and non-biological. It is good to be a mother. It is good to desire motherhood. It is profoundly good and right to celebrate and say thanks for all the hard work, sleepless nights, love and all those scrumptious choo choo bars.
I usually keep a low profile on Mothers Day. I am confused with how to respond to it. I have long considered it a day for other people. I enjoy seeing my friends celebrated but I cringe inside when I see how narrow our contemporary scope of the day is. It lacks a comprehensiveness, and acknowledgement of the complexity of being a mother and being a woman.
The Real Story behind Mother’s Day
I learnt something last year that I have been mulling over. For me, it’s a bit of a game changer.
Firstly, the woman who founded Mothers Day back in 1908 – Anna Javis, did so to honor her mother post humorously.
Secondly, Anna’s mother had experienced the death of 7 of her 13 children in her own lifetime. Her mother was no stranger to grief and hardship.
You see, I think Anna Javis intended this occasion to be a deeper, more comprehensive day.
Her version was less about commercialism, slippers, foot spas and carnations but more an acknowledgement of the joy and privilege, as well as the hardship, sacrifice, sorrow that comes with mothering.
To acknowledge the complexity of being a mother and a woman and to say thank you in the messy midst of it.
It turns out I have a place in the day I hadn’t realized. So this year I take my place and add my voice to the chorus of thanks.
To say thanks even when I can’t say it in person anymore.
Anna Javis said that I could….