May 9, 2021
The headlines were particularly weird this Mother’s Day. One from a young mother of twenty-five and glad of it. One about millennials having to get their arms around handling their parents’ estate. Another about what to do when no one wants to buy your mother’s cherished possessions. Several were about fine china. One worried that no one wants it. Another claimed there was a line starting to form for her mother’s china. On a higher – or lower – note, depending on your perspective, there was also on an attack in Afghanistan on a girls’ school, just so we’re all clear that misogyny is still alive and sick. Birthrates in the USA hit almost a one-hundred year low, so of course there was an article about conservatives trying to beef up support for mothers so that they can do what? Stay at home, rather than work. Oh, boy!
Not that some of this isn’t very real. A younger neighbor shared with me the concerns he and his brothers have about their mother’s ability to keep living on an eight-acre plot in central Louisiana where four acres has to be regularly mowed. We worry our children constantly about when – or if – they will have children, despite the fact that they are clear that it is none of our blankety-blank business. All of which is true, but these are matters of the heart that exceed manners and usual family boundaries.
My own mother passed away a bit more than three years ago. There is a china cabinet eight feet tall filled with fine china that is beached in my parents’ dining room that resists normal decision making, and it is joined by several cabinets almost as large with crystal and glassware. The design is British, and mi companera knows the name and locations, but the children are not interested. There are serving dishes and all manner of other things including on shelves and in closets. They gave great parties for Christmas, for Thanksgiving, for friends, for work, for pleasure and the pure fun of it. They kept lists. They knew who reciprocated. They took partying very seriously, and they had the equipment ready for service.
We use plates and bowls at our house inherited from my brother with pictures of fish, birds, and dogs, which make us happy even when it’s oatmeal or frozen dinner in the middle. Our social event of the year is Thanksgiving when all places are filled with family and friends, but that’s just a gaggle, not an army.
I drag my feet settling all of these estates. There are challenges to sort out, but there are also gifts. My daughter found letters my parents exchanged when he was in the Navy, finishing NROTC then shipping out to the Pacific at war’s end, and she was teaching in Picayune, Mississippi. They were young, secret newlyweds, fresh with love, waiting for their lives to begin in earnest. Deep in my father’s desk were graduation certificates from high school in Orange County, California, and to my even greater surprise, articles about ACORN. I learned that my mother was valedictorian at Millsaps College in Jackson, Mississippi when she graduated.
Sure, Mother’s Day is another commercialized marketing extravagance, but it’s easy to look past that as the kids hug their beaming mother, and we know that we would all put up with almost anything to see our mothers healthy, well, and with us once more. We know it’s impossible, but we would all swear that we would do better this time around and make every day, mother’s day.