Saturday, May 10, 2014

Cookies, Mother's Day, and One Family's Story

Most of my mom's cookies will be in the form of dough, but the idea is the same.

It  should come as no surprise to anyone who even occasionally turns on a TV, radio, or computer that Mother's Day is tomorrow. My own mother has always been against the use of the day as a giant windfall for Hallmark, American Greetings, or for any of the other scads of greeting card-production companies, some of whom bizarrely try to claim number one status in the industry for themselves. That, however, is a subject for another day's blog. For right now, I'll try hard to reign myself in to the topic of over-commercialism of the holiday of Mother's Day, of Mother's Day itself, and of my mother.

My mother's mother died when she was in high school. My father had an extremely tenuous relationship with his own parents in the early days of my parents'  marriage. It's unlikely my parents would have made the trip to Utah on Mother's Day anyway, but my dad's parents have almost always traveled for the LDS Church on Mother's Day weekend, so a trip to Utah would beget a visit possibly with a giant seagull monument, but not much more. 

Family lore has it that some nine months or so after my parents were married, my father stopped at a pharmacy to pick up a package of latex gloves, which, most of us know, have all sorts of practical non-medical uses.  Under more normal circumstances, my dad probably would have just grabbed a handful of the things from a box in just about any given room at the hospital where he worked, but a Nazi cost accountant had recently come on board and had been meticulously inventorying such items, necessitating many previously unnecessary trips to pharmacies for doctors. On his way out of the pharmacy, as a last-minute thought, my dad picked out a Mother's Day card for my mom. He signed it, sealed it into its accompanying envelope, and put it away until the next morning, when he presented it to her.  Expecting a polite "thank you," he instead got a tirade worthy of a salt-water crocodile on miscellaneous subjects including but not limited to  greeting card company greed, over-commercialism of holidays in general, buying of Mother's Day cards for people who are not mothers as a way of pacifying them so that  the givers may later go out for a guilt-free  round of golf, failure to deposit one's already-worn underwear into the designated laundry chute, and unpopped popcorn kernels that NEVER made it from the bottom of the hot air popper unless my mother took the time and trouble to carry the hot air popper over to the trash can and empty the damned thing, and she didn't even LIKE popcorn. My father's side of the story includes a pointed reference to the calendar and to the involvement of PMS in this mother of all disputes.

That was my parents' first Mother's Day. The second one went by tacitly unobserved.  Neither parent remembers anything that happened that day, but they're sure that if the day had involved any sort of acknowledgement of the holiday, it would have evolved into at least as big a fiasco as had the previous year's "celebration," so they're fairly certain they both avoided any mention of the day's significance much the way Jewish people living in close contact with Christians don't ordinarily use Good Friday as a day to throw huge bashes for the purpose of gloating about Jesus' demise. I won't say it's never happened even once in history, but in my corner of the world, it's certainly not customary.

Fast forward to the next year. My mother had been a mother, though only briefly. Two years earlier, my dad's head had been figuratively sliced off and handed to him on a crystal platter for, among other things, giving my mother a Mother's Day card before she was an actual mother.  What was the correct and proper way to acknowledge Mother's Day for a mother who had been a very real mother but had barely experienced much of it, or at least had dealt only in the most brief way with the post-utero realities of motherhood?  His parish priest had no great ideas. (Realistically, how would a life-long single, childless man be able to advise a parishioner on such a matter? It's one of the things wrong with the whole Catholic concept of clergy in my opinion. Men with the best of intentions may be called upon to provide answers to questions for which they haven't the merest clue.) A scan of the writings of Emily Post, Amy Vanderbilt, and Miss Manners, didn't offer much more than what the parish priest had to say.  The local LDS bishop, a 32-year-old teaching physician by trade who paid my dad a visit when my dad's mother asked him to do so,  handed Dad one of those "Plan of Salvation- Families Can Be Forever" sort of pamphlets, but my dad knew all about that, as he'd served an LDS mission many years earlier.

I don't really know for whom I feel more sorry for retrospectively (it was before I was born) at that point in their lives. My poor mother had lost premature twins, far enough along to take their first breaths and, in one case, to hang around for a few days,  just long enough to grip both parents fingers and to be held in the hands of both  parents as he took his final breaths.  My father had been along for the whole ride and had lost his own flesh and blood as well.  I don't want to diminish fatherhood in any way, but I suspect there's a biological thing going on with a maternal loss of a very new child that, while it's present for the father as well,  isn't there with quite the same magnitude as for the mother. On the other hand, there's a grieving father dealing not only with the loss of a child but with a seriously grieving wife, and not really having any idea what he can possibly do to help. In the grand scheme of things is that  a whole lot easier than the mother's role? I don't know, and I hope to God that I'll never have to know any more about it than I know about it right now.

My dad finally decided just to ask my mom about two weeks before Mother's Day what she wanted to do about the day. She wanted to get away. Time off was precious and tough for my dad to obtain at that point in his career, but he managed a long weekend, and they traveled north to where they could spend the weekend avoiding the awkwardness of  contact with anyone who knew about the babies they'd lost months earlier.  

By the next Mother's Day, my parents were once again in the early stages of pregnancy. They weren't ready for any formal announcements, and they certainly weren't ready to spend the holiday with friends and family, but my mother was already needing to choose her wardrobe carefully, because twins (even when one is tiny) manifest their presence early. She didn't want to deal with anyone's questions. Again they traveled north to be by themselves for the weekend, though it was a happier  if still slightly walking-on-eggshells sort of mini-vacation.

By the time Mother's Day of 1995 rolled around, my parents had their very own set of healthy twins.  Mother's Day was no longer a taboo subject, but a holiday to be openly celebrated as it is for most mothers.  My dad said he sent flowers, bought candy, and even bought a new car for my mom that she very much  needed but that they couldn't quite afford yet. He said he wanted to make up for the other years that he wanted to gift her with so much but couldn't for all the obvious reasons.

I think we're now normal celebraters (my spell-check says there's no such word, to which  I say bullshit!) of Mother's Day, if there is any such thing. We're all still on rocky terms with my dad's father, but not with his mother. It's still not usually a good time for us to go to Utah, but we send something we think she would like, and we visit her as close to the actual day as possible.

My dad usually barbecues. Sometimes we go to a restaurant, but restaurants are incredibly crowded around here on Mother's Day.  My dad usually has something that's in his price range alone among immediate family members that he knows my mom would like. He would be more than happy to include us in the gift, and even to accept our small monetary contributions, but still it would not be our gift.

My brother is really good at thoroughly cleaning and detailing cars, and my mom is a bit of a slob when it comes to her car, though she loves having it clean and perfect.  Right now even as I am typing, my brother is working on my mom's car.

My cousin Josh  lives with us when he is not away at school because he is wanted here no matter what his religious preferences may be. He doesn't know yet how he feels about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints or about any other church. He left a mission when he became life-threateningly ill, and though he never really left The Church, The Church sort of left him. He's not welcome in his parents' home unless he's willing to go through the church's motions, so he's here with us. He honors my mother by changing her oil, rotating her tires, and steam-cleaning her engine, or something like that. My knowledge of the workings of cars is limited. I just hope they go when I turn the key.

There's little I can buy or do for my mom. We have a house-cleaning service, and I do most of the in-between stuff already. My mom  has a lot more money than I do, so if she really wants something that I can afford to buy for her, she's probably already bought it. She likes cookies, so I'm making ten batches of cookie dough  for her. I'm baking about three of each kind of cookie for her, and freezing the rest of the dough in rolls so that she can  pull it out out of her freezer and cut it, roll it, or shape it however she wants. I'm making it at my pseudo-relatives' home because they're not here to be bothered by my presence. The cookies will then be a surprise for m mom.

Cookies are such a lame expression of appreciation and love for everything my mom has done for me, from sitting up with me when I was sick or hurt to standing up for me against an agency which ignored my rights to giving me life itself. It cannot have been an easy decision to try for another pregnancy after the initial one ended so tragically.  

I read a silly maxim on a greeting card or somewhere that said,  "A son's a son until he takes a wife. A daughter's a daughter for the rest of her life."  I doubt there's much truth to that where Matthew is concerned, as I suspect that he's in with you and dad for the long haul, but I KNOW I'm with you forever and that you could not rid yourself of me even if you tried.

I love you, Mommy.


  1. I'm sure your mom will love the cookies. At least you didn't do what I did and screw up the date.

  2. Dates, schmates. It's the thought that counts. My mom got my dad's birthday confused with her brother's once and held a surprise party two weeks early. It's a lot easier to successfully pull off a surprise party two weeks before anyone is expecting it..

  3. LOL… and I bet your dad was a great sport!

  4. I think my uncle whose birthday it actually was got thrown for a bit of a loop, but my dad thought it was hysterical.

  5. Baby Lexus, You have a way of airing our family's dirty laundry while making us appear to be better people than we actually are all in the same piece of writing. I commend you.