Mom: This Year, You’re Not Getting a Card

My soul curls up in the corners when I buy greeting cards.

Something in me balks at the convention, the grocery store rack of suggested sentiments, the playing GO FISH. Pluck one out. Crack it open. Scan, shake my head, set it back. Over and over until I find a match. A skeleton key. A few lines that unlock, sort of, the fuzzy things tucked low in the heart.

I hate the pressure, on a prescribed day of the year, to rouse all the right feelings. To re-visit everything that’s been implied (hopefully), and verbalized (hopefully), and (most importantly, most hopefully) shown on the other 364.

Worst: the scalping. $4.49 for that pinch of poetry?

I’m exaggerating only slightly. Maybe it’s because I’m a writer and feel a certain dominion over words, a pride in telling them how to march, Forward! Maybe it’s because it feels non-intimate, having to bridge hearts with heavy cardstock. Maybe it’s because there are only ever two flavors: Silly-sarcastic and saccharine-sweet.

Would you prefer a good giggle, or to avail yourself of a pocket-pack Kleenex?

Mother’s Day: Funny

Mother’s Day: Sentimental

I need to find Mom a Mother’s Day card, but where is it?

I need a card that tells her how, a few months ago, I sat at a stoplight in the slow February snow and was overwhelmed by the certainty that, as much as I know her, she remains so much a mystery to me. This is something I became sure of as I watched home videos a few weeks back, and saw my mother, then my age, scooping young me up out of the mud puddle at a family reunion. She’s wearing a pair of cute short-shorts, her hair long, butter blonde, and swishy as she walked, and in that moment I became so suffocatingly aware of this: That my mom has whole histories that predate me. That I have lived so much of my life, nearly all of it, so innocently and indifferently unaware, so un-curious about who she was, and how, exactly, she got here.

This is the ignorance of childhood, sure. We’re receivers. Moms sweat out, and we sop it up, little sponges. We take.

Show me the card that says, “Mom, I’m sorry I haven’t listened to more stories. Mom, I’m sorry I haven’t asked more attentive questions. Mom, I want more of you. The whole you.”

Show me the card that admits to this woman who held me within her, rocked me over her hard-thumping heart, that while she put the world on hold to worry about me, I have not stopped to turn around and say thank you and worry enough about her.

My mom is probably the strongest woman I know, burying both her parents a month apart, at 39, and then Dad, at 45. Tugging us three wiggly girls to church every single Sunday for almost two decades, more or less on her own. Going back to college in her forties and huffing out the mandatory mile in that “freshman” gym class, next to teenagers. Launching a career after two decades at home. My mom isn’t a trooper; she’s Mel Gibson in Braveheart. Plunging forth. Life has sharpened its sword and sliced into her, but every single time she’s grabbed a needle and started stitching herself back up. Quietly, too. She is unslayed, unburned, refusing to wall off her heart, refusing to stop running.

Show me a card that burns white hot with that kind of daughter-pride.

Show me the gloomy card that tells her I can’t imagine life without her. That I have nightmares of it. Show me the card that tells her she’s the first person I want to run to with my savory bits of secret news. Show me the card that so perfectly tells her, even when I worry she’s forgotten it, that she remains the most beautiful person I know, not just inside and out, like the cliché goes, but in places that are beyond inside, and beyond out. Places I can’t lay a finger on, places I am still discovering, the older I get and the more I ache and the more I am impressed that she has done this mother-thing, this woman-thing, with worlds more patience and grace than I can imagine. Where is the card that gasps how fatigued I am by her example, because she is even beautiful to me in ways I still don’t understand? In ways I want to be more like?

Show me the card that thanks her, over and over, for sitting on the couch as teen-me cried over boys (or lack there of), and doubted my own ability to juggle a baby (or get one to quit screaming), and gnawed my nails down about stopping school and stopping work and changing majors and changing dreams and generally worrying, fretting really, over the warm shame of what others might think.

No one cared, and yet she did.

And she listened.

Mom, I’m verklempt.

I never knew how hard, how permanent, how un-undo-able this mother-thing was until I had a kid of my own, until I learned what it’s like to have part of your heart go walking around in somebody else’s body.

Until I had a kid I had to feed three times away, whether I felt like it or not. A kid that needs consistency, whether I feel constant or not. A kid that needs bedtime stories, and bubble baths, and for me to “look! look! look!” A kid that, today, leaned too far forward in the half-bucket swing and ate woodchips and bloodied his lip and wanted to nuzzle his runny wet nose right into the crook of my brand new spring jacket.


There are no good words. Thank you for being my first fan, my first friend.

Thank you for being my mother.