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Missing Mother’s Day

By S.A.M. Brooks

Like most women, I have an abundance of Mother’s Day memories. The clay pots I shaped and colored, necklaces made of paper-mâché, paste and various organic items that could be found around an upper New York State schoolyard. Yearly, one of these priceless gifts would find itself at the breakfast table the second Sunday in May, where when it was presented to my mother she would appropriately ooh and aah, maybe even suggesting I had a future in the art world.

As an only child, I did not have the nasty task of having to compete with, or have my treasure compared with, those of less talented siblings.

The first Mother’s Day I thought I deserved to be recognized went right over my then-husband’s head. Somehow he had failed to notice that I was stretched to my limit, having been babysitting for eight months. It was May in South Carolina; I was hot; my ankles were swollen and the responsible party should have given me a Mother’s Day card!

Graciously, as my children grew older, gifts came rolling in. But my favorite remembrance was breakfast in bed served by my 6-year-old son, Michael, who as an adult did distinguish himself in the kitchen. But that morning, the menu included eggs scrambled in vinegar.

Over the past several years, a family tradition of sorts has evolved. We attend church together that Sunday in May. A bit of guilt may be involved (I’m not proud), but all of the in-town family dutifully shows up. How bad can it be? All the moms get to wear a flower, everyone says nice things about us and because it is UU there is food involved. Plus there are no Final Four games scheduled.

But I have missed this family tradition the last three years as I have been serving with the Peace Corps in the Philippines. My commitment ends in August and along with many of my 57 batch mates, I will be heading home. Most of the 20-somethings are scoping out new jobs or graduate schools, but I want to snuggle on the couch with Tate and Henry, stroll down Franklin Street and wiggle my toes in the grass at Weaver Street Market. I want to come home. I want a hot shower.

Five years ago, I cleaned out the last of my mother’s stuff, which had taken up residence in my garage. There it had collected dust, the cardboard boxes deteriorating, since Mom, at the age of 82, had moved for the last time, joining her grandson who was scattered around the Memorial Rock of the Community Church of Chapel Hill UU.

Most of the boxes were filled with medical/insurance notices/receipts. I could chart the progression from cane to walker to walker with wheels to wheelchair. There were nail files, recipe boxes, bridge score cards, address books and a small frame holding a second-grade photo of me. It had been decorated with macaroni, and a few, their color faded, still stuck to the cardboard.

S.A.M. Brooks is a longtime Chapel Hill resident who has been serving as a Peace Corps volunteer since 2007.

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