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Mother's DayMay 11, 2014

For years now I've put together a Mother's Day drinks party at a local Oakland pub. The only ones invited are people who've lost their mothers, and we call it Dead Mother's Day. It's a place to go to be bitter about all the spam emails we've received ("Don't forget Mom!" As if we could.) It's fun, it's a bit more raucous than you'd think, and the bartender knows us now, knows why we're there year after year. 

This year I don't want to do it. I'm officially Unorganizing it. For the first time, I'm okay not being angry at the day. I'm still sad, mind you. I'll never not be that. 

But I'm not furious with Hallmark for promoting a day of shopping that serves to do nothing but rub my face in the fact that I'm motherless. I'm not as wildly jealous this year of those who send flowers to the mothers they still have. 

I'm just thankful I got the one I was dealt because she was the best, and I was lucky to have her. 

The way I honor her (every day--not just today because that's ridiculous) is that every book I write ends up being about mothers. 

My most recent book, Pack Up the Moon, is about a woman with a complicated history with her own mother.

Kate checked her cell. Stared at it. Clicked the button and scrolled right. Left. She pulled up the entry for Mom and pushed Call. It rang once, then the recording said, as it always did, “You’ve reached a number that has been disconnected or changed. If you’d like to make a call, please hang up and try again.” Once upon a time Kate could call her. In the year since her mother had died, Kate called the number at least twice a week.

Kate pushed the disconnect button and stopped the recording. Someday someone would answer the phone and she’d know that the number wasn’t hers to call anymore, but until then, it was.

 Kate loses her child (no spoilers; all this loss happens before the book starts), and with it, she loses the ability to mother. Then she finds the child she gave up for adoption, the girl who was adopted by two women. Was it really an accident that so many years ago Kate gave her own daughter double the number of mothers a girl usually has? 

Kate poured Pree the first cup, and then waited until there was enough to pour for herself. Pree pushed a blue-black curl out of her eye and then stared into her coffee cup as if she were having a hard time deciding whether or not to take the first sip. She was so beautiful. Young. Gorgeous in her casually-worn luminous skin. Alive. For one second Kate allowed herself to bask in this feeling of pride in a person she’d helped create. It had been a long time. She’d almost forgotten what it felt like.

What if, on the very small chance, Pree was here because she wanted to talk? What if she wanted something from a mother she’d never had, a mother she didn’t know?

Sternly, she reminded herself a child with two mothers doesn’t lack for maternal advice. But oh, God, if she did... There weren’t words in the English language to describe how she’d feel. The color didn’t exist that would paint the happiness it would bring.

To be a mother. That’s what Pree’s mothers had had, this whole time. Kate hadn’t been a mother in three years, and the urge to be one was almost overwhelming. The urge to touch Pree (to smooth the hair back off her face, to touch the tip of her perfect nose) burned in her knuckles and made her fingers twitch. It was ridiculous, not to mention socially and morally unacceptable. And still it was there, inside her, a feeling that might knock her down, physically, all the way to the ground.

It's a bit odd, the knowledge that I'll write about mothers and daughters for the rest of my writing career. You'd think it could be exhausted after a few books, but I've barely tapped what I know of it (wait till you read the next book, if you thought this one was mother-centric! Is this a good time to make sure you're on my mailing list so you don't miss it?). 

The love of a mother blazes with the sheer fury and wattage of the sun. A daughter radiates in it; she absorbs it. If she's lucky, the warmth is enough to sustain her her whole life, even when the sun goes out. 

I wish you a Happy Mother's Day, most especially to those of you shivering in that kind of cold. There are many of us who know how you're feeling today. Love to you. 

(Thanks, RedEnvelope, for inviting me to participate in the Mother's Day blog tour!) 



My mom has been gone 17 years now and Mother's Day is a lot easier than it used to be. Like you, I still feel sad, but I also recognize that I had an awesome mom and even though I'll always wish she was still with me ... well ... she's not. That 2nd to last paragraph made me tear up because it's so friggin true. I'm one of the lucky ones. I'm glad you are, too.

I have a mom. She's 90. I can empathize with your grief though, because for most of my life she has been emotionally unavailable. I feel the sadness but in a different way. My saving grace is that I know that I have not been that kind of mother. I will cherish every minute with my son today. Happy day to you. Hug your loved ones.

Beautiful, beautiful post.

My situation is a bit similar to Marcy's - my mother, through no fault of her own (mental illness), was emotionally unavailable as well. I always felt judged more than loved. I don't suffer from the illness which ultimately took her life, so I was able to make and keep the resolution to be a different kind of mother.

She would never let us celebrate Mothers Day when we were growing up, and I tend to view it as a Hallmark-made event. But while I don't feel the gratitude and kinship with my mother that many do with theirs, I do love that my son acknowledges it. So it's a mix of sad and happy for me.

My birth mother was not my mother. My step-mother was not my mother. Who became my mother and loved me the rest of her life was a woman who had a heart bigger than Texas, who took a bedraggeled, mentally and emotionally unstable, sad seventeen-year-old and taught her how to live and love. It was a rocky road, how she could STAND me is beyond comprehension but she did. I miss her sooo much and it seems more every year. I will see her and Daddy again. I know she knew I loved her; I want the chance one more time to tell her. I have my SO's mother to love and cherish and I will for as long as she is here on Earth and beyond. I hope I have channeled enough of her lessons and my grandmother's example to make life better for my children and my grandchildren.

Mothers and Fathers Day used to be my favorite holidays and I am happy that these are days others can still celebrate.
I am a Daughter Without A Mother and Father and also a Mother Without My Child. Mother's Day became THE day to remind me that the people I loved most had died and my heart would break all over again. Father's Day would wallop me again.
People always ask on Mother's Day, and rarely any other, if you're a mother ...as they cheerfully hand you a flower or wish you a Happy Mothers Day. Awkward and painful.
In today's world there are children surviving their parents, children with only one or no parents, children that had to be taken from people that didn't know how to be parents, women longing to be a mother but cannot. It's a large club that no one wants to be a member of and the well intentioned holidays and the borage of ads are reminders of what is missing.
A lovely wise friend that became a Daughter Without A Mother, changed Mothers Day to Nuturers Day. She sends a happy , loving, bright email to all her friends, male and female, thanking them for nuturing her and others through the year, sharing highlights, advice and sometimes an old family recipe from someone else's family (her turn to nuture)
Nuturers Day turned it around for me. We all "mother/nurture" one another every day and it's nice to remind one another that we appreciate being cared about by choice-no familial obligation, and we all have wisdom and advice aplenty to share.
Our nuturing nature and wisdom and advice may be passed on from our mother or someone else's mother but what really matters is it gets passed on. Share your teaching stories, the bits of wisdom-we are all a garden of gorgeous blossoms that grow more lovely and strong with nuturing.

*hug* I am blessed to still have my mother. Thank you for reminding us how important these times are.

Oooh. Snow's bit about the day reminding me that the ones I loved most were gone... ditto over here. This is my seventh motherless Mother's Day, and being single with no human kids, even though it's not a holiday like Christmas, it's still a family-oriented day and I feel the undercurrent.

I think I'm slowly losing my own anger, too. I no longer have that "how DARE you enjoy this day" feeling; it's dialed back to a simmering subliminal ache of no discernible origin--and I can live with that.

As for me, I will be hugging my furkids extra tight tonight. I love that you write about mothers and daughters. These are universal themes, and with your sensitivity to them, the stories are gems.

I am lucky enough to still have my own mother with me, but we lost my mother-in-law just over a year ago. This is a hard day for me, and a very hard day for my husband. I know he and his sister are still in the 'angry at the stores and Hallmark and everyone' stage. (((Hugs))) to you and yours, Rachael.

This is my 6th Mother's Day without my Mom and probably the first one I've gone through without hating it. Today I felt the absence of my Mom, as I do almost every day, but it's an ache and not a pain that takes me out at the knees anymore. I get why you had Dead Mother's Day and why you're not doing it this year. I hope today was as OK as you could make it.

Me, I have a different problem... not so much with Mother's Day specifically, but with a culture that valorises motherhood and maternal relationships so much. As someone with a rather different family experience, all the gushing about motherly love can be pretty alienating because, well, I just don't feel the same feelings, feelings that are widely assumed to be just basic human stuff. It's almost shaming. And of course all that gets focused on the one day. So... blech to Mother's Day. (But yay that you had a wonderful mother! And yay for writing about wonderful and complicated relationships in all forms.)

I think that one of the most complicated, deepest, most confusing relationship is the one between a mother and daughter. I loved your book, Pack Up the Moon. I'm still trying to work through my life with my mother. There will never be another that touches the heart of my being, and yet creates such a conundrum of emotions that I try to work through everyday.
I just wish she were still here to talk to about it today.
Why didn't I do it when I could??? Therein lies the ultimate question...

Great post. I love your words about a mother's
love. So beautifully written. I love when writers
put into words what I feel, but can't express.
Thank you!

I have very mixed feelings about Mother's Day. My children called which was lovely but I hate my mother. There, I said it out loud. I have tried to deny for many years that I feel that way but it bubbles up every time I interact with her. She chooses to deny the crazy. She chooses to criticize and berate. She chooses to judge and jump to conclusions and then pass on hateful gossip to siblings. I have finally made peace with the the fact that the woman who gave birth to me is not the person who nurtures or cares for me. I have found many amazing women to fill up my "mother-pie". These are woman who are strong, loving and accepting and who model nurturing for me. We are not all blessed with a mother who we will miss when she is gone. I envy you that.

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Rachael loves it when book clubs read her work! She's happy to attend book clubs that read her books either in person or via Skype. Contact her at rachael@rachaelherron.com to make arrangements.


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