Dani Shapiro
May 14, 2017

On What A Mother Means

As I write this, I am lying in bed — trying to restore myself after ten days on the road to promote Hourglass, with many more days of travel coming up.  It’s Mother’s Day — a day that arouses so many feelings in so many of us — and as I was blearily scrolling through my Instagram and Facebook feeds this morning, looking at images of my friends with their mothers, my friends with their children, I was struck by the intensity of the day — even though it’s a manufactured “Hallmark Holiday,” it makes us think.  It makes me think.  About being a mother, yes. And also about having a mother. Having had a mother. Next month she will have been gone for fifteen years. 

Being a mother to my amazing, beautiful son is profoundly uncomplicated. It is pure love, pure unconditional love. He is my light and he has my heart. Later today, my husband and I will go hear his band play, and then take him and some of his friends out to dinner.  We’ll hug a lot. We’ll say “I love you” a lot.  We’ll laugh a lot.  I will look at him across the dinner table and feel myself exploding with pride. 

Having a mother was not so easy or uncomplicated.  My mother was beautiful and tempestuous.  She seethed with a constant rage, like a bubbling cauldron threatening to spill over at any moment.  She loved me but she also hated me, and I could feel that hate — that sense that I had taken something valuable and essential from her by my very existence.  She competed with me and was envious of me.  She certainly did not want me to surpass her.  As I write these words I want to erase them — to erase the ugliness of them — but I can’t because they’re the truth, and digging for that truth is what has saved me.

Still, on this day, I mourn her.  I mourn what never was, what couldn’t be, and the waste of it all.  We’re here for such a brief time.  We can reach toward each other or away from each other.  We can fill our hearts with kindness or with bile.  Some of it is a choice and some of it isn’t.  But on this day — on every day, but this one in particular — I want to wish something for all of us, whether we’re motherless, mothers ourselves, or would prefer not to think about any of this mother stuff.  Let’s try to be good to each other, and be good to ourselves.  This go-round is what we’ve got.  My mother missed it.  I’m trying like hell not to.