Tag Archives: Mother’s Day

No Greater Expectations on Mother’s Day

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.

Keeping it Arboreal for Mother’s Day

If mothers were trees…would they be like these?

A speculative look at the similarity between maternal instinct and cultivated bonsai architecture.* 

Seeing the forest for the trees.

Forest for the Trees
Five. Five is the perfect number. No more. No Less. Unless you are speaking of children, and then five is just an insane amount. Any more than five is asking to be committed. (Ahem…Cousin C–I’m looking at you!)

Birch trees, with their snow-white bark always make me think of the Robert Frost poem–Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening–the last lines of which could be an anthem for motherhood:

“The woods are lovely, dark and deep,   
But I have promises to keep,   
And miles to go before I sleep,   
And miles to go before I sleep.”
I invite you to explore with me some leafy-themes of being a mom.
Into the woods we go…

Some mothers are worth-less.

Shaky Legs
“I feel like they’ve put me on a pedestal. But I’m one broken-string away from a complete collapse.”

It is very hard to know your own worth even when people are kind and reassuring.

Mom 1: “Of course jelly beans can fit up the nose–the manufacturers designed them that way. “

Mom 2: “Oh yeah. It’s a nose-picking conspiracy all right. The sugar syndicates are in cahoots with the emergency after-hours clinics, I’m sure of it.

Even with an abundance of fertilizer, it can be hard to feel like a properly formed fir.

It helps to surround yourself with like-minded trees.

Join a collective–be unique in a crowd

Collective 2
The kids may be driving us toward deciduous anarchy but we are firs. We stay green!  (Except for the one one in the yellow pot. But, don’t worry. She’ll be back, ready to tackle the seedlings in spring.)

Real friends let you know it’s okay to be a small tree in a big garden.

We grow at our own pace and, yeah, some of us have perky petals, but most of us are just clinging to our own mossy kingdom trying not to kick out the dirt holding us together.

 

Other mothers are hard to miss–always the belle of the ball.

Razzamataz
Look at me! See, I’m special and unique and you must admire me!

It’s hard not to compare yourself to the mom who looks like she’s got it all under control.

But maybe, she only let’s you see her when she is at her best.

I like to think this bonsai goes home to put on a pair of sweat pants and binge watch Dancing with the Stars while eating Chunky Monkey straight from the carton.

Lean into parenting sharp edges

Uncomfortable Balance
“Just one more load of laundry and then I can sleep….”

Sure, lean into the wind.

Face your battles.

But also, be willing to admit when you are unbalanced.

All work and no play makes mommy a crab apple.

Dwarfed by expectations

 

 

David and Goliath_Inked
“I am mighty…” said the tiny bonsai tree. 

I measure myself against an impossible standard: the mom I want to be versus the mom I am.

Sometimes, it’s okay to just be the cute-little-mom-that-could.

Be at peace with your adorable limitations.

Postage Stamp Bonsai
“I am Groot.”

The tiniest seed still blooms if you give it enough attention.

That rule applies to you as much as your children.

Fake it until the glazed pot fits!

Blue Bowl and Bonsai with Rock

You may feel like you are coming apart at the seams.

You need a solid foundation and a rock to lean upon.

That’s okay. Go do something nice for yourself.

Buy a glazed ceramic pot to squat in.

Sometimes, all it takes is a pretty package.

Never give up!

Never Give Up Never Surrender
“Is it chilly in here, or is it me?’

Just when you are suffering root rot…

That’s when it’s your time to find that inner strength to keep blooming.

Even when you feel dead from the crown down.

 

Moms meltdown too.

Burnt Bonsai
After a fire, the forest is reborn in the ashes.

It happens.

We all lose our cool.

Try not to burn any bridges while you blaze away.

Remember: Spring returns each year.

Floral and Rooted
Even when your roots are showing–there is still beauty there. Share the joy.

Whatever your parenting challenges…

If you just can’t pack one more lunch or pick up one more pair of underwear…

Those tangled roots that are tying you in knots and weigh you down?

They are also the ones that lift you up and make you an absolutely beautiful mom.

 

Asterisk Bedazzled Footnote:

*Bonsai Parenting Archetypes–an excruciatingly root-bound analogy.

 

Bonsai Moms
To my very own Bonsai Mom. 

My mom agreed to join me at my favorite place on earth for mother’s day.

The bonsai show was such a nice surprise!

Mom admired the petite jardins–even if she was drawn to the biggest brutes on the lot!

Majestic Pine
Mom’s favorite dominated the competition. I wonder what that suggests about her bonsai traits?

 

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Thank you for joining me for a retrospective of the Mother’s Day bonsai bonanza at Meijer Gardens. I highly recommend you attend the special exhibits like these, or, failing that, stopping by to enjoy my obsessive photography habit.