Mother's Day is the greatest of all days for the unpaid-in-money mother, which is all mothers. It is nice to get five minutes extra to read while your three kids and husband make you breakfast in bed. It's a shocker to take those five extra minutes and the total luxury of putting your barefeet BACK under the covers after getting up, like stealing a Cuban airliner and heading for Hawaii. Th luxury of knowing someone else is doing it, I don't have to for five minutes. See, it isn't the time, (ten minutes would be better) it's the break in the monotony of ME, and the disappearance of me while other people are in charge that is the real luxury. Then I like when everyone else busts back in and there's my food on a huge tray and then they surprise me with something and I have to close my eyes and I'm thinking what is it, an ELEPHANT? And they got me a unicycle because for years I've been saying "this is the year I learn to ride a unicycle" (like I'm sure you all are saying). But the unicycle fills me with terror because 1) it cost money, why did you spend money? and b) now I have to learn it.
But the greatest part isn't even the luxury of the barefeet in bed not working, or the unicycle or the eggs and jelly toast. It's the numbingness of real life, when it's happening and you're in the middle of it and you're so lucky to have ordinary days where people sit on your bed and hand you a card that they made.
It's the Mom Bonus. The things they say, that matter to them. That I make brownies, and that I help with homework. I make brownies because I like to eat the batter. I help with homework so they won't be homeless later on. The dailyness of being a mom is the hard part, wading through the squabbles, swallowing when Lilly starts crying because the scooter I hefted into the car is the wrong scooter, and instead of screaming, just swallowing that down and turning it into stomach cancer later. I was thinking the other day that I haven't taught the kids "grace," how to act with grace, because I don't have any of that, I ordered it but it never came in, I got chocolate instead. But then every time I don't yell when I'm mad, when I take a second to let the ripples smooth out, when I realize the person I'm talking to is 4 years on the planet to my 45, I think that grace is maybe something quiet you don't notice that you already have, like teeth.
All that breakfast in bed stuff happened yesterday, today we went to the bagel place and walked through Montrose like we usually do on Sundays with the grandparentals. It is nice to be part of a loud and raucous family, with books and bagels and soda to drink, and grandmoms to celebrate. Our family feels much bigger even when it's just the two grandparents, maybe because my Dad and Mawm channel the great Granddaddy Johnson and Gramma Yvonne of my youth. Two broiled Southern fried, deep accented, large characters I visited during the summer in Arkansas. The current grandparents are finer versions, more Vivaldi and Anne Shirley, great imaginations and softer music. But the spirit is still the same, trickling down through them and I hope sticking in Nathan, Emma and Lilly. Boisterousness and sly humor.
For Mother's Day, I just want to say I feel vacationed in. I feel celebrated, and enjoyed and understood. I feel like my little sprouts are sprouting into real live weird and interesting people, and thank God I have the grandparents overseeing and checking my work. Giving a nudge here and there where I might not have known needing nudging. It's important to have a verdant garden, to have a thick soil. We need us all.
But most of all I wanted to write things to N, E and L because of the things they wrote to me. Nathan, you teach me to keep on trying to get good at something, if you like it, work hard at it, it doesn't happen right away. You teach me to be strong and steady. And funny. And to be silent and look at the things people are not saying, because if you watch someone you can get a pretty good idea of who they are. You see things in your thoughtful and precise way, and I like that honesty. (You're like Daddy.) I need your clear vision. Plus you make great pancakes. And Emma, you just soar. You're like that bird on the ground that just runs, runs, hops a few steps and just zooms, full speed into the sky. You are a fearless individual. Even with fears and worries and troubles, you have an anchored-down heart, you know, inside, that you are strong and brave, and able. That's why you're so at ease with everything, because your insides are all ribboned with glory. Plus you like whipped cream on brownies. And Lilly, you are a tiny flower with great big violet blossoms. You're hilarious and a barefoot princess with a sword. You may be the Caboose, and a grateful follower, but you are not afraid to burst to the front and behead the enemy. And then eat cookies.
All three of you have the capacity to rule with dignity, humor and clear-mindedness. It doesn't matter what fairy tale you end up living, I traded my cow for you when I was 34, and you are my magic beans. I don't care if you only spout into a cabbage. I think you're a rainbow. Eleven years later.
Juliet Johnson is an NYU grad, short story writer and playwright from Maryland and Los Angeles. She grew up traipsing around the back lot of Universal Studios with her brothers while her dad made classic tv shows. Working on movies and TV made her think that dreams were possible, that you could get paid a lot of money for standing around in your shorts and drinking Lipton Cup of Soup. She lives on a farm in Los Angeles with Barry, and kids Nathan, Emma, and Lilly.
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