Sunday, May 11, 2008

The Day After

I used to think my mom was lying when she said she didn't want anything for Mother's Day except to spend time with me and my brother. I was pretty sure all mothers lied about stuff like that, about how beautiful/talented/perfect their children are, about the tooth fairy and what an absolute gift it is to get your period for the first time even if you are still in the sixth grade and the bathrooms at your elementary school don't house any feminine hygiene receptacles. (Not that that happened to me or anything.) So when I was old enough I bought my mother some cheap rose-scented perfume at the drugstore. A box of Whitman's Samplers full of chocolate covered cherries and red dye #4. One year I even went all out and gave her a bottle of Jean Nate concentrated cologne spray. Happy Mother's Day! I wrote in a card probably featuring carnations tinged pink and maternal, and then I would skip out of the house to play with a friend or, later, off to TCBY where I spent my teen years slinging fro-yo like it was nobody's business.
Jaunty with giraffe, Mother's Day.
Of course now I know the bitter joke of parenthood. That everything I ever did to my mother will come back to me ten-fold. Rolled eyes and pfffth. Ttcccch. Duh. Luckily at two Zoey is not yet aware of this dynamic. I am her world and lately, when I kiss her, she opens her mouth as wide as she can as if she will never be able to get me close enough. If before she proffered me rosebud kisses now it is an overblown cabbage rose, a dark descent of pink mouth, sweet breath and chewed up Cheerios coming at me and I laugh. I have no doubt that she intends to swallow me whole.

A modern day Mary Cassatt painting, Mother's Day in our garden.

A few years ago on a Southwest flight I sat next to a mother and her daughter. The girl must have been about three and she sat on her mother's lap the whole plane ride, facing her, asking to kiss. Mwah? she would ask. Can we play kiss some more? And her mother would sigh, exasperated--I could tell she wanted to read her book--but she would lean forward just the slightest bit and kiss her daughter. The girl would open her mouth to cover her mother's, giggling, and from my seat not one foot away I exhaled loudly and hogged the arm rest. Why! They were practically making out! I would later tell my friends, although I doubt I said "Why!" because I am not yet eighty years old. The kisses seemed slightly incenstuous. That and the fact that the woman was carrying a John Grisham book loaded me down, heavy with disgust.

How can you not?

Zoey is still too young to give me Jean Nate. Instead she gives me kisses, mouth wide open, breath smelling slightly of milk and cookies. I cannot bear the thought that she will one day think I need chocolate covered cherries more than I need her. And so I kiss back, my mouth closed, but when she comes at me like that I take the chance to whisper deep into her throat I love you, mommy loves you. It is my deepest hope that she will swallow those words and keep them there in the pit of her stomach. That one day when she gets her period and thinks the world is over, that one day when a cheerleader comes into the TCBY where she works and smears frozen yogurt all over the tables because maybe, just maybe she flirted with the cheerleader's boyfriend at Homecoming the night before, that one day when she is a mother herself she will still be able to taste these words and know that she has swallowed me whole. That she is my Mother's Day present because she is the one who gave me the day anyway, that I am not lying when I say she is beautiful and talented and perfect. But that I am lying when I say getting your period for the first time is a gift because--let's face it--it's just not.
Happy Mother's Day Zoey. Love and a lifetime of cabbage rose kisses,
Your mama.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

My six-year old daughter still loves me like this; still wants to spend every minute with me if she can; and I get teary every time I think about the day when she's not going to be like this. SOOO sorry about your blog deletion; it's just the kind of thing I do.