Sunday, May 11, 2008

"The Lady Who Runs The Vacuum Cleaner"

Mothers Day? What was that? When I was growing up, you didn't have to worry that you’d forget and she'd have her feelings hurt. There were other, more pressing things to worry about in the fifties. People were still adjusting to the upheavals caused by the war. It wasn’t ‘til I came to America that I learned there was a special day in May for remembering and honouring mothers. And even though life and relationships are fraught with complicated, not easily pigeonholed feelings, this day is all about flowers, and candy, cloying sentiment and warm fuzzies. But, as I see it, if you don’t love and honour your mother every day you live, one day in May will hardly compensate.

Reading my history notes last night, I came upon Garrison Keillor’s column. Which is one of the reasons I don’t just throw old newspapers in the recycling bin----I might miss one of his gems. How can you not love a man who could write something like this:

“Mothers were, at one time, young women with Possibilities who might have taken a different route and become glamorous and powerful figures in size two dresses and instead found themselves cleaning up excrement and jiggling colicky babies to get them to stop screaming. They hardly ever get to London anymore or have time to read James Joyce. They sit down to dinner with adults and feel brain-dead. A bouquet of flowers hardly seems compensation enough. How about a million dollars and a house in the south of France?"

Do we, in fact, stop being who we used to be as soon as we give birth? Do we become “just the lady who runs the vacuum cleaner?" I think that happened to me. I went through the motions, I cooked, I cleaned, I loved, I comforted, I consoled, I rejoiced, I burst with pride, I ached,I propped my eyes open with toothpicks, I laughed, I sobbed, but a part of me was somewhere up in the attic, wrapped in mothballs, covered in dust.

Or do we become someone better? I went up to the attic a few years ago and rummaged around ‘til I found that old self. I dusted her off and aired her out to get rid of that camphor smell. When I unfolded her and shook her out I found she still had the long legs---BUT---not a varicose vein in sight! Her hair was brown and wavy and her face smooth and unlined. Sigh. I found her a little naive, but I liked her a lot and thought she still had possibilities.

So, if you're finding your mum a little boring, slap yourself, and realise she used to be a real person before you came along and she devoted herself to teaching you how to fly instead of learning herself. She used to have dreams of her own, but now all her dreams are for you. She used to sleep at night, but now she can't close her eyes until she hears you opening the door at midnight so she knows you’re safe. She used to be able to kiss the hurts and make them better, but now, she has to stand aside and let you deal with the slings and arrows all by yourself. She would like to sweep you into her arms and make the world go away, but it would be undignified. She has to trust that all those flying lessons are about to click and you’ll soar off into the blue all by yourself.

Meanwhile, if she's still alive she'd probably get a big thrill if you called her, or, gasp, wrote her a letter. The postal service, world wide, is still one of the best bargains out there. Use it!
And if she has already gone to her hard earned reward, Plant a flower in your garden, or in a pot on the windowsill and call it by her name. She'll know.

Happy Mothers Day everyone!

11 comments:

riseoutofme said...

Aha ... I love it when I'm first!

It isn't Mother's Day here but I know when that despicable day does rear its ugly head at this side of the Atlantic .... woe betide any of the fruits of my loins to acknowledge it! What about the other 364 days? 3 of them are more than happy to oblige but No.1 daughter insists on recognising it ... but she means well so I don't get cross with her!

StitchinByTheLake said...

I absolutely loved your blog today! The best gift of all is when one of your children (an adult herself) says I want to be just like you.

Tanya Brown said...

Well written. I do believe you're giving Mr. Keillor a run for his money.

Frankofile said...

So mother's day is on my birthday in the States! Good job I don't live there then. I like having two separate days to hope for cards.

Glad to have found your blog. Loved this post.

meggie said...

A great post Molly. I used to sit in dazed disbelief some days, & wonder where I had gone. I felt invisible.
Now, of course, with the children grown, I wish I had managed to be more conscious when they were young. I must have done something right though, as they never forget about me.

Stomper Girl said...

Molly, I loved this post. It should be taught in schools! Thankyou.

Thimbleanna said...

That's awesome Molly! And I'm thinking should probably be sent, about now, to may who forgot their mothers! Beautifully written, as usual!

Kapuananiokalaniakea said...

Ah Molly, I can always count on you in a pinch. I've been thinking about my mother all week and yet, somehow that did not translate to getting anything in the mail. How fortunate, then, that I read this on Sunday morning.

My card to my mother was as follows:
Mummy,

I read this today and thought of you.

So, if you're finding your mum a little boring, slap yourself, and realize she used to be a real person before you came along and she devoted herself to teaching you how to fly instead of learning herself. She used to have dreams of her own, but now all her dreams are for you. She used to sleep at night, but now she can't close her eyes until she hears you opening the door at midnight so she knows you’re safe. She used to be able to kiss the hurts and make them better, but now, she has to stand aside and let you deal with the slings and arrows all by yourself. She would like to sweep you into her arms and make the world go away, but it would be undignified. She has to trust that all those flying lessons are about to click and you’ll soar off into the blue all by yourself.

So…

Look at me, Mummy! The lessons are beginning to click. Thank you for helping me learn how to fly. I love the wings.

Hugs and kisses.

She LOVED it.

As soon as I come out of the closet with my mother about my blog, I'll direct her to yours so she can delight in you first hand.

Isabelle said...

Well yes, I agree and you said it very well. But I still like my flowers and cards in March (British Mothering Sunday).

Kacey said...

I was one of those Moms who stayed at home and ran the vac, polished the mirrors and ironed everything in sight. Then, when my brood was almost all in college, I went to nursing school and discovered a whole new world. Now, I was caring for total strangers in an intimate way --- not just my family. I loved both places --- home and the hospital. We are getting old and are just caring for ourselves, but strangely, our children don't know we are old. I suppose a broken hip will happen and then they will know. Today, the trouble is that we go from being self-sufficient to incompetent in a flash. My kids will probably fawn all over me when I no longer know who they are.

mjd said...

Interesting thoughts, I appreciate the love and recognition. However, I find some of the sentiment of the day to be a little smarmy. Hopefully, we recognize our parents from time to time throughout the year. In any event, I hope that your day was grand.