Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Anniversary and Mother's Day

For all of the years I have been a mother, I have boycotted Mother's Day. As a child, I was forced to endure the torturous behavior of my mother. If we failed to make her feel special "enough" then we were subjected to emotional abuse for being ungrateful children. When I finally became a mother, she stripped me of that role and that child. By the time I had children the world recognized as mine, the sour taste was so strong in my mouth, I just wanted nothing to do with the occasion.

We've long run away from Mother's Day even in the days we were consistent with our church atttendance. I actually think it's been nineteen years since I was in church for Mother's Day, by my personal and deliberate choice. For those same reasons, even when children came into my life, I refused to make it a day about me, something that I forced into being for my family. It was never meant as a passive aggressive thing. I merely felt that my family knew it was Mother's Day and if they opted to remember it, then that was their decision but not one I would make for them. If we've had any sort of family tradition, it's that we almost always go hiking. That was merely a result of hiking being the most isolated way to escape the commemoration of the day without staying in bed for the day. Since I homeschooled for most of their lives, I did tell them it was Mother's Day, but I never played it up.

What has never been as easy for me to accept is that our anniversary falls within the same period of time as Mother's Day, sometimes even falling on the actual day. Until last year, the biggest celebration I can ever remember in all of the years we've been together was the year I decided to buy a Wii for the family, instead of an actual anniversary celebration for us. When the fall happened, I didn't want to celebrate being married to him. It took me at least two celebrations to see anything joyful about the date instead of a time of mourning for me.

Last year was perhaps the first time I was willing and ready to truly celebrate being married to this man....and Micah was dying. We did an overnight stay at a major attraction and then headed home. It was absolutely beautiful, understated, and the first time we had been alone overnight since we traveled to India years ago to pick up Ch. Let me just say, a $10/night hostel where they spend an hour at midnight trying to sell you tourist packages and then hand you a skeleton key for your door is just NOT romantic, especially when it comes after a long day of international travel and just before an early start to a second day of domestic travel. How I actually slept knowing the small bar of metal was the only thing between myself and any intruder came only from the belief that if I died that night, losing sleep was not going to make the situation any better. I also made II find a better hotel for our return to New Delhi with Ch. The rest of that trip we were not alone, and I was fully focused on Ch's medical situation that was clearly unstable when we picked him up. So, last year truly counts as the first time in nearly a decade that both of us went away overnight together. He's sent me away, or I've traveled on a rare occassion. He's traveled for business, and lived alone until we moved to New England last spring. We have not been together.

Last year's trip was mostly my initiation. There were no additional gifts, since Micah was dying and S had just been dropped on our doorstep. S came with a long list of expensive needs and immediately sucked up a good portion of our trip budget. I am grateful that I was able to check something big off my bucket list, but it wasn't exactly a long, nor decedant trip.

II has a long, long history of bing a lousy celebrator for birthdays, anniversaries, Valentine's Day, and Christmas. I have taught him a standard that I want the children to never know what it is like to not be celebrated. My entire childhood was able not being allowed to draw attention away from my mother and onto myself. The only people who celebrated me on any holidays or birthdays was my grandparents, who made things magical to the best of their ability to work around her and from a long-distance. I wanted more for my children. Thus, we do celebrations big for the kids. It's not about dollars, because sometimes there have been far too few of those. It's about making sure they have a day where THEY get to shine and be special, and holidays about focusing on making them magical for them. Until I struggled to even like him, I did the same for II for celebrations--muted compared to the kids but still as much love and heart as I could pour into celebrating, even if all I had in my purse to spend was $20.

Only one year did I do my own celebration and I was so upset and sad that I swore I would never do so again. I had spent my lifetime in the shadows. I would rather stay in the shadows than have to force people to see me and acknowledge me when they did not care. Since II has never bothered in the past, and I won't promote myself, the children have done very little most of their lives to celebrate me. I would rather be the steady strength they know is always there than force the issue. I accept that from the children. From II, it was devestating. However, I could not force him to behave differently either.

When he moved to New England, he apparently made a vow to be a better husband. Yet, Micah was dying, and that changed everything about our lives. It wasn't that I didn't believe his effort to change was dishonest. I just didn't believe he was capable of follow-through, nor of my ability to appreciate any efforts at that point of time. I don't even remember my birthday last year, coming so close after Micah's death. II and I spoke just yesterday of my desire to not try to remember that birthday. I recall what II was planning, and that the planning fell through when Micah died. I don't remember what we did, if we did anything. I don't want to remember. That birthday is too tied into grief for me to want to be apart of it. So, I cannot tell you if II did change how he has treated any celebration that was about me. I know he was trying and then our lives fell completely apart

What I do know is that II did an effort at Christmas, not to merely put something under the tree, but for it to be about meaning and connection. I was deeply touched by his efforts at Christmas, but did not honestly believe it would happen again, not with his history. When Valentine's Day rolled around, two of our teens destroyed any ability for us to do anything by their insistence that they go to a Valentine's Dance at their school...as 8th graders who cannot date, mind you. We both gave up on the idea of Valentine's Day.

A month ago, II came home with a box for no occassion, and no reason. He gave me a necklace, a beautiful one. He never gave me an explanation as to why. Having not recieved even small gifts from him since before his cheating days, and certainly not without a very specific reason, I was nervous. This month, for the first time as an adult and as a married woman, early May was not a time when I was forgotten and trying to run away from the cultural attention.

II went way beyond my comfort zone in shining attention on me. It wasn't about the money, though he did spend some. Perhaps the most precious thing he did was send hourly love notes via text when I worked on our actual anniversary. For fifteen years love notes are the one thing I have asked from him, which he never even attempted. The attention he shone on me for the first two weeks of this month have been nearly uncomfortable to bear. Yet, the heart I see behind these choices is something so very precious to me.

In addition, now that most of the children are in public school, they have been fully indoctrinated at school regarding the holiday of Mother's Day and the expectation to honor your mother on that day. Instead of the usual lack of even recognizing the day, my children behaved differently. Having long focused on the value of handmade gifts, my children presented me with a large stack of that very type of gift. The oldest two teens gave no gift, not surprising for those two, but they did remember the day and hug me, telling me they love me. One of my children spent meticulous hours in secret burning a love letter into a board of wood for my gift. As soon as II figures out how to mount it, it will go on my walls--likely for enternity.

To culminate my tradition of escaping the day, we loaded up as a family and went to help a friend in need. Her family bought a fixer-upper and were in desperate need of manual labor to finish getting the house habitable so they can move out of their rental and work at the rest of the fix-up work as they live in their home. In a month, they made frustratngly slow progress. Thus, we loaded our crew up and headed over to lend a hand. My children gave cheerful effort, and serious labor to the day. Our friends are now looking at moving in as soon as they can now pack up their belongings, hopefully as soon as this upcoming weekend.

This was truly the best May of my adult life.

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