adulthood · family · femininity · love · motherhood

Dear Mom, I Hallmark You.




It was always very clear what our family would do on
Mother’s Day: We would have bought hanging fuschia plants at Metropolitan Plants up on Route 17 in Paramus, one for our mom (Ben’s and mine) and one for
my Dad’s mom. We’d make the U-turn by Grand Union, near which, whenever driving
past it together, my best friend M. and I would parrot a mean jingle about our
babysitter: “Get everything you don’t want aaaat Grand Pam!” (name changed for
Once home, we’d exchange the broken and feeble fuschia that hung by the
side of our house all winter for the new one, hook the other in the Camry, and
drive over to Queens.
After the lovely awkwardness of pizza with them, our family
would reward ourselves by stopping by The Pastrami King. Which has since
closed, and there’s now a Pastrami Queen somewhere, which, sorry feminism, is
not as good.
Pastrami King had the real barrels of pickles along the wall, all different
kinds, fat, warty, dark, light green, and my mom would dive into the barrel with the plastic tongs to fetch these prizes out of the water. My brother and I would gag at
We’d get round potato knishes and pounds and pounds of,
really, the best pastrami I’ve ever had, and also some of their own spicy
mustard – because people, no mayo, no ketchup, nothing but MUSTARD, is supposed to go on a pastrami sandwich. Sorry.
It’s the Jew way. Well, at least,
our Jew way.
Mother’s Day did mean
something in our household, and despite all the “It’s a Hallmark holiday” scorn
it receives, and despite the mixed emotions it may bring up for people who’ve
lost moms, lost babies, can’t or didn’t have babies, for me, it’s nice. Yes,
even on this arbitrary date some CEO thought up some years ago, it’s nice to
acknowledge my Mom. And so, I do.
This year, by coincidence and fortune, I came across a
website with cuff bracelets with large metropolitan city subway maps engraved
into them. Paris, Berlin, Chicago, New York. My mother, the consummate New
Yorker. In fact, this very morning, she sent me a batch of photos from the
window display of her local dry-cleaner. The purveyors apparently rotate a series
of Barbie tableaus. Last time was the Oscars, complete with a miniature “Gone
with the Wind” poster, red carpet, and a Marylin Monroe Barbie. This month, a Barbie Seder,
with mini Afikomen and all!
She loves the city, and so, my brother and I split the cost
of one of these cuff bracelets for her. She may never wear it, it may be “not
quite right,” and sure, a nicely written
card could have done the same thing, and for many years it has. But, this year,
it was nice to say, “Hey, I know this is something very important to you, a
part of you, this city, and I want to give you something that represents that,
that says, Ben and I know you. You are not invisible, you are seen, you are
recognized, and you are appreciated in your interests and oddities.” (Not many
women her age would brave black and white saddle shoes with skinny jeans. But,
her photo to us to mark the start of Spring was of just that!)
I am not a mother. I don’t know if I will be, the fates
haven’t sent me that postcard yet. But it’s baby season around me. At work, I’ve gotten
to snuggle almost weekly with what started as newborn for the last 4
months, and now teeths and laughs and dances and flirts all shy and coy
sometimes, while his mom gets to compose emails with two hands. Like yesterday, I’ve gotten to snuggle another newborn at my friend’s house, letting
him sleep on me for swaths of time where my little heartbeat rests right
against his, and his flutters like a bird, and he’s so warm and soft and new.
It’s glorious.
I’m flying out at the end of the month to visit one of my
best girl friends on Long Island. She got married last year during 4th of July,
went on honeymoon in August, and got pregnant on a boat in the Mediterranean. 9
months later, baby. I asked a few of the new moms I know if it would be “worth” my
flying out to see her. How “important” it was. If money were no object, it
would be no question. It’s the only time at work that I can really go in the
foreseeable future. 
How important is it? The baby won’t remember. My aunt tells
me all the time how she was there when I
was born. I don’t remember. Doesn’t really mean anything at all to me. Or, at
least, it hasn’t. But, now I’m beginning to see that it is meaningful — to the adults. To have
the people you love around you at a time when everything is changing, exciting, exhausting, new – I’d want my best friend there, too.
I don’t have those “uteran tugs” that some women experience
around their 20s and 30s, that ache for a baby in my body. But being so close
to the motherhood around me makes it so much more real, significant,
I’ve written before about my own “Maybe Baby” question, so this
one is just to say, laying a baby – my baby or not – on my chest, having him
nuzzle into me and rest because I’m a safe place, is Life’s great privilege. 

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