Mothering is a prolonged goodbye. For many it lasts 18 years. Others have an abrupt ending at 5 years or 23.
My grandma called me a child when I was maybe 22. I defensively retorted I was not a baby. Grandma, in her wisdom, shared what I would learn to be true—7 or 72, I would always be her child.
I have a grand selection of fine friends who forgive me my dislike of this day. They forgive my bland vanilla wishes. My mother grieves along with me.
And a little girl who believes mommies are the gift, brings a rose to me for reasons she can’t yet grasp. A mama’s thin smile is all the conversation needed, one that is whispered above the child’s head.
This is my third attempt to fulfill a request to tell a story. Usually I can give it a day to breathe; ruminate a bit. Come at the theme sideways, talking low in an attempt not to startle my memory or the subject matter.
Not this time.
I cannot tell a lie, especially not today. Today is not the day to disappoint my mother. So I can’t tell you what it is like to be a mother in extreme poverty. My heart won’t let me walk that road.
Fifteen years ago, I put a tiny baby back in her bassinet and walked out the door of the Missionaries of Charity in Chennai. I called my mother from the deck of the Universe Explorer and I cried. She told me I couldn’t leave the ship and fly home with a baby. She was right.
On that day, I was no more ready to raise a child alone in the US than I would have been to stay in India to serve at the orphanage. Though I wanted both.
I’d share with you the photo of me and baby M., but the snapshot, like most of my life is buried in a storage unit across town. First world problem.
I can’t paint a picture of life as a mother in Uganda or Guatemala, and I can’t tell you what Mother’s Day means to me. I’ll have to believe that my own mother will forgive my failing an assignment and these three will forgive me for not understanding their world.