We have a quiet Mother’s Day, my son and I. He came down with a terrible head cold on Saturday which means that, by Sunday, he is a hacking-wracked ball of phlegm and we can’t go visit grandma as planned. I call to invite her to come to our house instead–at least, to the outside of it. (She is immunocompromised–so masks and open air are her best friends.) The weather is perfect for an alfresco get together to chat and exchange Mother’s Day gifts. We agree on 1:00 pm and I hang up. Ordinarily, I’d leap into frenzied action, but it’s Mother’s Day and I make a different choice. A better one.
Any time someone is going to come over, I usually have to engage in a massive disaster relief effort–the kind of clean up that happens after a storm has threatened to wipe a town off the map and leaves a ton of broken things to be hauled away. Only in this scenario–I am the tornado. Things are thrown down the laundry hamper. The dishes are piled into the dishwasher (or out of the dishwasher to make room for the newer, dirtier dishes.) Books are stacked as if they might, just might, get back to the library some day. Maybe.
As a rule, I make an attempt to provide plausible deniability that I am not, in fact, a borderline hoarder. Stuff gets shoved into rooms with locking doors. I am not a cleaner, so much as I am a denier of filth crimes. A hider of clutter. A shover of just-one-more-thing-into-the-junk-drawer fanaticism. Things get tidied because otherwise I fear someone might just call social services to report me for my lackadaisical housekeeping standards. Dammit.
But with the kid home sick I’ve had no help since Friday. I had a big mailing to finish for work which took priority, and the house shows it. With only a few hours until Grandma stops by, addressing the mess seems futile. Not to mention, since we are meeting out-of-doors, kind of pointless. Unless she needs to use the restroom.
With the kid coughing up germs left, right, and center–sometimes directly into your face–it seems prudent to at least try to minimize Grandma’s risk of contracting whatever plague he has. I douse the bathroom in a bleaching chemical bath and spray the faucets with antibacterial Lysol, change the towels, and call it good enough.
Outside, I drag the not-entirely-non-oxidizing-metal yard furniture in place and scrub to get last year’s bird poop off as best I can. I put the umbrella up, but I can’t drag the heavy base from the garage to keep it stable. So the furled edges flutter slightly whenever the warm air lazily passes by–nudging the ribbed canopy, fluffing it like a dancer’s skirt. I zip a circle of plastic with a felt backing around the center pole–an umbrella-friendly tablecloth with giant watermelon slices and what might be flip flops–or maybe pineapples?–scattered in glaringly bright colors across the surface. It too flaps frantically whenever the wind tugs it. It is a minor inconvenience. Sitting near the budding maple tree, shaded from the warm sun, drinking a cold beverage, it is probably as close to perfect as a day can get.
There’s only one not-so-small problem. What to do with the kid? Leaving him in the house likely means returning to an even bigger disaster than I already don’t want to face. Bringing his projectile coughing near Grandma runs the risk of making this our last Mother’s Day together. Even though he can wear a mask, it isn’t entirely reliable seeing as he wears one at school and still managed to catch whatever virus he’s got.
My solution? I drag a green bag up from the basement and hastily construct an A-frame tent we used to go camping with when the boy was much much smaller than he is now. There are a few holes and stains in it and the elastic that holds the poles together is stretched out of all helpfulness–but the design is simple perfection. It is the classic triangle tent depicted in all those Beetle Bailey cartoons and the kind we actually used in basic training, though they were made of canvas and not this water-resistant, windbreaker material. (Not washing machine resistant, as I discovered, but that’s another story.) It’s taken a beating, but once all the poles are in place, it holds its shape.
Grandma arrives, carrying a portion of angel food cake baked with pineapple and topped with whipped cream. I grab cans of diet cherry coke and we chat between interruptions from my son. Apparently his participation in this celebration requires him to drag every single one of his stuffed/plush toys and blankets out of the house and into the tent. This is no small task. A parade of Frozen, Paw Patrol, and Trolls character march past stuffed into a mound with his blankets. And then, once that’s done, he asks for lined paper and a popsicle before settling down to write calendars in his mobile green kingdom on the lawn.
Presents are exchanged. My ‘son’ gives me a new set of cornflower blue Rubbermaid food storage containers and Grandma gets a gift certificate to Kay Dee’s Garden–a greenhouse where she can buy a flat of pink and white cosmos to fill the flower pots outside her home. We talk for a while, but mostly we just enjoy the understated beauty of a sunny day with no greater expectations.
This may not be the most exciting Mother’s Day ever recorded, but being outside after weeks of gloomy, wet weather, and enjoying a conversation with my mom is about as close to perfect as these things ever get.
So, to all the other mothers out there who would rather sit and relax on Mother’s Day–I salute you! And I hope that you too enjoy a day being a Good-Enough Mom that might otherwise have been wasted trying to be a Perfect One.