Staring Into The Fish Tank, Wanting To Be A Fish

Today is, as everyone knows, Mother’s Day. Mother’s Day is–sort of like Christmas but not as severe–one of those holidays which make me feel like I’m not playing the same game as everyone else. My mother died when I was twelve, and for a long time after, Mother’s Day was a terribly sad day for me. I’d go to the ocean and throw handpicked flowers into it in her memory, as we’d done to commemorate lost soldiers on Memorial Day when I was in elementary school. My mother’s ashes were scattered in Provincetown Harbor just under a year after her death, so this sort of tribute seemed appropriate. She was technically in the ocean–somewhere–and I was giving her flowers. Gradually, however, I stopped doing the flower thing. For a few years, I shopped for Mother’s Day cards and sent them or gave them to all of the women who’d mothered me in the course of my youth–my sister, my mother’s friend Tammy, my high school best friend’s mother, etc. In the past few years, however, I’ve done nothing. I’ve made a few phone calls to the closest of my “mothers,” and I’ve immersed myself in waiting on other people and their mothers at work (I’m a waitress). This morning I woke up around noon, after having been up late reading, and I called a friend who I’d planned brunch with. It dawned on me that it was Mother’s Day, and that we’d have a difficult time getting a table nearly anywhere. She didn’t call back for a while and I had time to stew on the day, the feelings–the absence of feelings. I called my sister and left a message that I loved her, and I hoped that one of her children was taking her to brunch and that’s why she wasn’t answering her phone. I should be taking my mother to brunch, I thought, but I’m not. My mother’s been gone so long that the last Mother’s Day I saw her she probably paid for her own present. For a while, I couldn’t put my finger on exactly what emotion it was that had me sitting slack-faced on my front stoop, not fidgeting, not smoking, just sitting. Then I realized, finally, that it was uselessness. I felt useless. What is a motherless daughter to do on Mother’s Day? I can send cards to other people’s mothers, and I can thank the women who brought me up when my own mother wasn’t there to do it, but it’s not the same. I could take all of my “mothers” to brunch at once—all eleventy-six of them–and still I would sit in the restaurant, surrounded by women who loved me, feeling entirely and completely empty, staring with envy at all of the daughters dining with their actual mothers.

It’s not even sadness anymore, most of the time. It’s just this feeling–this numbness that leaves my face almost completely expressionless a few days a year. It is what it is, I guess, and that’s all that it will ever be.

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~ by saltgirlspeaks on 14 May, 2007.

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