it’s all about the ing
maybe a proclamation would be the thing. although that was done already. maybe just some common-sense yak, yak, yakking would do the trick.
it’s about a little problem i have with what’s coming sunday. far as i can tell there’s a missing syllable.
i would like to make the day not plain old mother’s day, a noun. which by my take is exclusive, too exclusive.
i would like to add an ing. and make it mothering day, a verb. a day for all who mother.
not just those who know what it is to push the burning bulge as if your life depended on it. which, of course, it did, as well as that of another one or two or three or, heaven help you, more heart-pounding little lives, depending on your wide-eyed obstetric state.
and not just those who’ve signed their name on someone’s dotted line. or stepped in without official papers.
all of that is fine. insanely, amazingly, awesomely, only-MotherGod-could-have-invented-this, so very fine.
but there is more—there are so, so many more.
yes, every last someone who has stroked a brow, wiped a tear, dabbed chocolate off a little cheek, fluffed a pillow, tucked in the covers, whispered bedtime prayers, set an extra place at the table, stretched a meatloaf, picked the peas out of the pasta salad, kissed a bloody knee, kept a retching belly from falling in the toilet bowl.
yes, every pair of arms that’s lifted a dead-weight child in the pool, played red rover till the cows came home, bent half-over to push a kid on training wheels around and round the block, turned the pages of good night moon so many times you find yourself chanting good night to the mittens when no one’s in the room.
you get the point.
i have for years squirmed and wriggled when it comes to setting aside a sunday, ordering up loaves and loaves of toast that will be cut in triangles, smeared with jam and honey and cinnamon with sugar, and delivered, teetering, on trays that stand a mighty chance of toppling off of bedsheet-shrouded knees.
not that i have anything against newspapers in bed, or violets clutched in sweaty little fists.
it’s just, gosh darn it, my world, for one, is highly populated with extraordinary motherers who have neither birthed, nor adopted, children of their own. and plenty who simply could not deliver, ever—they are men, for heaven’s sake.
i am all for honoring the art of mothering. and i would make a motion to amend the noun and bow down before the brand-new ending.
the ing, i argue, is where the emphasis should be. it’s a verb, active, pulsing, life-propelling verb.
back long ago, when julia ward howe, the activist who gave us “the battle hymn of the republic,” her anthem against slavery in 1862, back when she unfurled her original mother’s day proclamation it was all about women rising up and demanding end to war.
that i could get in a froth about.
especially the way she put it:
“our husbands shall not come to us reeking of carnage for caresses and applause. our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn all that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience. we women of one country will be too tender to those of another country to allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs.”
so wrote julia in 1870.
but, somewhere, the hallmarks of the world got in the way. the second sunday in may became less about the women of the world exerting their mother-ness on the global family, and more about fluffy slippers, hand-crayoned cards, and leaving whole chunks of the population to ache because, by accident of biology, they’ve not been able to get egg plus sperm to equal zygote, their unborn children never got to take a single breath, they’ve buried a child born from their own womb, laid a lifeless little body to rest, far, far too soon.
aches, all, that never go away. all aches the second sunday in may only serves to jab and pierce so stingingly i know women who barely make it through the day.
or they might be women who exercised their right to choose not to bring another soul into this blessed broken world. or men whose tender caring touch goes uncelebrated, lost in all the hubbub of the third sunday of june when to be a grill meister seems the height of all that matters.
they all mother, if not define themselves as mothers per se. if not their own children, then other people’s children. or the child who dwells in every single someone. have you not been deeply mothered by a friend?
you needn’t be with child, nor even be a woman, to mother, is my point.
i don’t mean to be a grouch. and i hate to throw cold water on all the blessed moments the day will surely bring.
i just feel intent on proclaiming one not-so-little matter: may it be mothering, the art of tender caring, coaxing life, leaving mercy in your wake, the art that knows no gender bounds, no census-taker’s definition, the art the world needs in mighty thronging masses, may it be mothering, and not just mothers, for whom we stand and shout, God bless you each and every motherer.
may the whole world reach out and wrap you in its blessed holy bosom. the very one that you so freely share, the very one in which we bury our tears, clutch our fears, and find the very milk of heaven here on earth. amen.
i’m done proclaiming. your turn to toss it back.
and p.s. a most blessed birthday to susan, who achingly, bravely walks through her first birthday without her mother. xoxox
and p.p.s. the nest above? one i came upon while tromping through a field in winter, during the winter of my aching couldn’t-have-a-baby years. it was lying in a brambles, right before my eyes, as if the universe wanted to remind me: i might be some day someone’s nest. the broken eggs, i collected too. off the ground, crushed. empty. thus, the nest, the eggs above, they tell the whispered story of our motherness. sometimes broken, crushed. but sometimes possibility, hiding in a thorny bush. it belongs to all who mother. with love and honor for all you do to make this world a little softer, a whole lot less thorny. xoxox
ouch. I mean, what a beautiful post. And how true. But geez, what a different picture of mothering than the one I operate with, the one that shapes my days with my children. I am not much of a tucking, whispering, mercy mother. I’m more of a stand-up-straightening, character-shaping, don’t-let’s-be-latering, hurry-up-they’re-waiting, don’t-eat-with-your-hands!-ing, pick-up-your-floor!-ing mother. Motherhood as a system of boundaries, a long list of rules. Not soft-nest-making.
Hmmmm. Food for thought, bam. As always.
Anyway, Mother’s Day. My own mother hated it and made no secret of this. It struck her as ridiculous, I think; an annoying Hallmark day which went no distance to ameliorate, compensate, dignify, or bring ease to the regular, difficult, 24/7 life of a mother. Honest, probably true, but indeed, quite confusing to a child. I think the day is really more for children of mothers than mothers themselves, in some ways. And indeed, the challenge for me as a grown-up and a mommy now is to derive great joy from the day and make it obvious to my little ones that their efforts cheer and charm me.
In what I did not know were the last ten or so years of her life, when I was more or less a grown child, out of the nest, finished, I wrote my mother letters for Mother’s Day, letters about what I loved or appreciated about her that year in particular. And there was so much. One year her father was sick in another city and she went to him, lived with him, nursed him back to full health, although she didn’t like his city and missed her husband and dogs and friends. She remained with him months, months. It was a wonderful example of caring and loyalty and doing what needed to be done, despite her phobias, fears, or loneliness; a wonderful picture of mothering.
There are so many people who have mothered me, and especially since my own mother’s death, so many mothers of different ages, demographics, and both genders to help me along. Maybe dropping a few of them a little note to let them know I appreciate their mothering might be just the thing this Mother’s Day.
Friday, May 11, 2007 – 10:54 AM
so great to be reading the chair while riding the rails! am currently heading through central illinois, on amtrak train from kc to chi, passing by flat as a pancake farm fields. earlier, we whizzed by some horribly flooded areas along the missouri river. at first, i stupidly thought they were lakes, not noticing that farm houses and grain silos had been marooned by the flood tide.
i loved the chair’s message this ayem about mothering, emphasis on that “ing.” it was beautifully inclusive, even
bringing us guys into the fold. how kind, even though we lack the basic equipment to be mothers. in any event, thanks for thoughtfully articulating what mother’s day is really about. but please allow us to honor and celebrate you anyway.
Friday, May 11, 2007 – 12:43 PM
mother earth, the magna mater, does indeed “reach out and wrap you in its blessed holy bosom” every day and throughout the night. yoga teaches us to breathe, deeply. and to listen. mothering is the ongoingness, that which sustains, regardless, even when we are consumed by the quotidian things. mothering never ceases; we return to it.
it is perhaps a hallmark of our disembodied culture that we mark a day upon the calendar – the gregorian calendar decreed by papal bull, based upon the caesar’s calendar of centuries earlier – and on such “red letter day” we make merry, with toast points and jam.
what about the ongoingness? did the native people’s set aside a day of celebration for motherhood? i don’t know. and i wonder if, or i would like to think that, they perceived the ongoingness in a communal sense; that the ongoingness was quotidian.
regardless, in every moment we – every person, regardless of race religion creed or location – can breathe deeply, listen, and celebrate the riot of life nutured in our midst every moment. it is a matter of perception, the thing upon which we choose to focus and into which we may choose to delve.
Friday, May 11, 2007 – 07:16 PM
About halfway through the post I thought, “this is a sermon at which my old departed friend Bill Coffin would have smiled.”
It earned its “Amen.”
Thanks so much.
Sunday, May 13, 2007 – 11:55 AM
Been carrying your “mothering day” image in my heart all weekend long…and would like to add that we can also do some “mothering” for our own selves every day (this includes our male counterparts) because if we don’t take a moment to nurture and have a little loving mercy for our most imperfect selves…well that would make us not very prepared for ‘mothering” anyone else, now would it?
Thanks for raising my awareness a bit and reminding me to be thankfully aware of the mother blessings that come to me in so many shapes and forms ~ mother earth included ( thanks wm)
Sunday, May 13, 2007 – 09:51 PM
beautiful and downright wise. my cousin sent an e-mail to me following our mom day visits around town. she was commenting on how, upon watching me with her daughter, what a great mom i’ll make some day. it was sweet, but the truth of the matter is that i’ve mothered and been mothered by so many that i might be a mom of sorts already. sure, changing diapers might make it more commonly accepted but i have a great big extended family of friends and actual family who i care for and receive care from every day. thanks for acknowledging the rest of us without the conventional mom badge.
Tuesday, May 15, 2007 – 03:28 PM
Ah, you say it like no other, and what a healing this brings. Bless you. Thank you.
love you and all who “ing” xoxo
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