A new Mother's Day practice

desert sunrise - painted when I was in high school

desert sunrise - painted when I was in high school

Today, I decided to do something new for Mother's Day. 

It wasn't quite a spur of the moment. A week ago, I visited the town I grew up in. I happened to drive past my mom's favorite garden center. The sign out front said, "Remember Your Mother." I had forgotten Mother's Day was coming, and the sign made me stop and think. I've never liked Mother's Day. It feels obligatory, not heartfelt; a Hallmark holiday, no depth to it, another excuse for marketing campaigns and a deterrent to meaningful reflection. So many people have relationships with mothers who were neglectful, abusive, or absent. So many people have mothers who have died. So many people have stories that are more complicated than brunch with the family or flowers or a card, and the Mother's Day hype isn't gentle on those people.

I loved my mother dearly. I took care of her for 9 months, while she struggled with cancer, and they were some of the hardest months of my life. Those months will never be repeated, because my mom died just under a year ago. 

But I want to remember her the way she was before she was sick, too. And today, that's what I did. I remembered that when I was in high school, she used to walk clockwise around her house, through the gardens she adored, and scatter pinches of tobacco and cornmeal, saying what she was thankful for. I think she did it every day.

I can't tell my mom what I did in her honor today, but I can tell you what I did, and I can tell you why. 

Today, for Mother's Day, I went outside. I walked through my new garden with my mother's little boxes of tobacco and cornmeal. (Yes, I saved them, and yes, I knew where they were.) I walked clockwise around the house, and scattered pinches of the stuff, and murmured aloud what I was thankful for. For water, wind, and shade on unseasonably hot days. For being home. For raspberries and wood poppy and cardinal flower and trillium and bleeding heart, and all the others. For dear friends and family. For all the love I have in my life, even now. For having had my mom in my life for all the years I did. 

I can't tell my mom that I liked the slow way my thoughts moved when I was saying thank you, scattering tobacco and cornmeal. I can't tell her that I noticed more plants growing today than I did yesterday. I don't know yet if the cotoneaster I planted and forgot to water will survive, but I watered it - because I took the time today to see it, because of her. 

I can't tell my mom that I think I'll keep doing this morning ritual in her honor. Not every day, but often enough to keep in touch with the back yard. And that also makes me reflect on Mother's Day, and wonder why it's just once a year. The gestures Hallmark tells us to make on this day are sweet, but they're not satisfying, at least not for me. It's the times when the world isn't shouting at me to honor my mother that I most want to honor her. And it's those times, the random days with no title, when it feels most genuine to me to say - hey mom, I'm doing this because of you.

So I'll keep walking around my garden, scattering tobacco and cornmeal until they are gone. Maybe then I'll uncover a new ritual, or start an art project, or write. I'll make another step on this path of healing and grief. I don't think I'll know what my next step is until I'm ready to take it. It will be new, as this old idea was new, but it will also be tied to the memory of my mother, who I loved and miss dearly. 

One final thank-you, mom. You know it already. I used to say it every time I came home, and I meant it in all the ways it can be read. 

Thank you for having me. 

My mother's garden.

My mother's garden.