There will be no macaroni necklaces this year.
No misshapen cats made of clay, affixed to a cardboard backing: “You’re Purrfect, Mom” scrawled in crayoned lumbering letters. And there are no more tea parties in the pre-school classroom, your big rear end stuffed in a little plastic chair. No “Happy First Mother’s Day” cards from the drugstore, with your husband’s handwritten note, a brand new name signed beside his own, for that very first baby, when she was still 5 years away from writing it herself.
The teenager will remember (but only after she has rolled out of bed at 10:15) and mark the start of this day with a sheepish kiss on your forehead, for she is taller than, more self-aware than, you will ever be. The 11 year old will make breakfast and a gigantic mess, his face alight with pride as he carries up the burned toast, the glass of juice and an unwashed apple. His face is shining and his big toothed smile is a gift itself, really—a bright, fantastic gift that you grew, impossibly, with your own body.
You will dress all the children yourself , fight with your teenager over her outfit, tell your husband to put on a tie. You will not have time for a shower, but rather fold your unwashed hair into a low pony tail and stuff your stretch marks into some spanx. You will look longingly at your comfortable yoga pants. Soon, my pretties, soon we will be reunited.
There will be brunch.
Your own mother sits at the head of the table, when the hostess comes around, beaming with pink carnations and asks “Where are the moms here?” in a voice that is tight with false cheer, it will take you a moment to identify yourself as one. Me? You’ll offer sheepishly. In the presence of your own mother, this assessment of your place will feel false, lacking. You wonder how many other mothers, surrounded by the woman who raised them and their very own children, feel like an imposter at the grown-ups table.
You will cut pancakes, sop up milk spills. Eat something, stop fighting, where’s your shoe? You will consider the grand irony that these heathens of your own making, the children crawling under the table, are the reason you are even here, as somebody’s mother. It seems ironic. Ha. Ha, ha, ha. They will stop terrorizing each other long enough to give you great big hugs, tightly grasping your neck, touching your cheeks with syrupy hands.
You are so pretty, mama. You are my best mama.
She’s your only mama, stupid.
Don’t call your brother ‘stupid.’
You will kiss your mother goodbye. You will see her happiness and her pride and feel glad.
You will leave brunch tired and joyful, overtouched and underappreciated, hungry and full up on togetherness.
At home your husband will take them all outside, even the teenager (who is rolling her black-lined eyes) and you will take the longest, hottest shower of your adult life. No one will knock at the door, there will be no side of catastrophes brewing.
You will look down at your body, your sagging, hollowed, hallowed skin. You will scrub at your feet, your thick thighs, your belly. You will feel the seeds of self-hatred growing, the sparking words of disgust. This is not what I imagined at all. How did I end up like this?
Your husband knocks on the door and calls in. We have something for you downstairs when you’re finished, there’s no hurry, when you’re finished.
And you’re finished.
You rinse off and step out, wrap the towel tight around your middle.
You say nice things to your body.
I made things. I grew someone who is growing up to be someone wonderful.
Your yoga pants are a gift of comfort that slips on like soft summertime sun.
Macaroni necklaces are stacked in boxes, in your closet and at your mother’s house, too.
Teenagers wait downstairs, with a scarf they bought with baby-sitting money.
Little boys write their names proudly in the card they picked out just for you. And there is a card from the man you married, too. For you, my best friend, on Mother’s Day.
Your mother pulls out a photo album, alone in the living room of your childhood and cries over the magic of what was once and what wonder you’ve become.
You are the child of all the mothers passed and the mother of all the children left to be grown.
It’s a good day, in the middle.
In the middle, mom, it’s a very good day.