Last Sunday was Mother’s Day, for many people a time of eating together, of memories, of gratitude and sometimes of mixed feelings. For those whose mothers are not still alive, it is often a poignant day of feeling the absence of this precious person who is so entwined with our earliest impressions of ourselves and others. For people whose relationships to their mothers was difficult, or even painful, it can be a confusing day of appreciating the gift of life yet being haunted by disappointment or anger left behind by a mother bond that didn’t mirror back the love and respect each child deserves. And for women who are not mothers of children, it is still a day to appreciate your own nurturing, guiding, protecting skills and honor all the ways you bring the archetype of mothering into your life.
I did feel loved by my mother, though not always supported. On Mother’s Day I missed her, and would have given the world to spend just one day with her, though a reality check would have reminded me that halfway through that day we would probably have gotten on each others’ nerves. Maybe she would have become impatient with me because I got distracted by a phone call and she felt neglected, or I would have been annoyed at some sarcastic comment she made about how I repeat myself or picked up some food with my fingers, or let my hair hang in my eyes.
I read a book by Mitch Albom called “For One More Day.” Though it reads as though it were really a memoir, I had to go back to the book jacket twice to reassure myself that it was really a novel. According to the blurb, it explores the question: What would you do if you could spend one more day with a lost loved one? He and his mom had quite a complex relationship, and I enjoyed the story of his finding a new understanding.
So many times when I was writing “The Woman in the Photograph,” I was haunted by questions I couldn’t answer about my mother or her history. When the manuscript was finally finished, or at least I had taken my search as far as I felt I could, I had a dream in which my mother came to visit me. Ecstatic to see her again, I said, “At last I can ask you all the questions I have been yearning to know.” And then I realized that if I had one more day, I would not spend it asking her questions. We fell into each others’ arms and I awoke with tears of joy running down my cheeks.
If you are fortunate enough to have a special loved one close to you–a mother, a partner, a child, a friend–I invite you to savor every day as though it were one more day. May you have hundreds and thousands of one more days…
For me, this year’s Mother’s Day was a celebration of gratitude for the person–daughter, friend, teacher, fashion consultant– who gave me the chance to be a mother. Here we are, circa 1975 or 1976, in our front yard in the Mission district of San Francisco. I’d love to hear how you spent this Mother’s Day or what it meant to you this year.