I have always thought of Florida as a magical place. A place where mothers and children practically live on the beach together. The top photo, of my mother and youngest brother, was taken at the house on Eugenia Lane in Vero Beach, shortly before my parents finished the house on Azalea Lane, the one designed to become our someday permanent home. We did move in that May -- and I acquired my first room of my own, the one my mother and I planned to decorate with beach paraphernalia. Those conversations are among the last with her that I remember. We returned to Ohio for the summer and fall, and then in October she and baby Dudley were gone.
I took the bottom photo on the beach at St. Augustine, our last family trip of probably twenty spent there. Nighttime -- I wonder whether we were saying good-bye? We always went out to say hello and good-bye to the ocean, first and last thing. But the kids' college and job schedules became increasingly complicated, and then Josh was gone.
I can't say that I hate Mothers' Day. We gave it short shrift, growing up . . . It wasn't a day I wanted to celebrate with my stepmothers, and no one pushed it. I suppose my various steps-siblings felt much the same about Fathers' Day, although they were all in possession of actual fathers in other places, so the complexities varied. When I was a young mother myself, we all celebrated joyfully. These days, Mothers' Day is not much different from Christmas, or Thanksgiving, or Easter, or all the other holidays, really; difficult to endure, but no longer terrible. And I do have two beautiful living children, whose strength and resilience astonish me every day, and whom I will delight in seeing tonight.
Other people have already said all the eloquent things: about lost mothers, and lost children, and women who for one reason or another have not had children, or not been able to raise their children, and the whole messy idea of a day to celebrate mothers. I'll just say this: the young church secretary dashed into a meeting this past week to show me the "Happy Mothers' Day!" cover she had made for Sunday's bulletin and to ask if it was all right. I guess the look on my face said it all, because someone else offered, "I guess NOT." (We decided to go with it. Everyone else seemed to like it, and my prayer for Sunday covers the rest.)
Mothers and children. The greatest anguish ever. The greatest joy ever. That's pretty much my life story.