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May 6, 2011 > One day doesn't do it

One day doesn't do it

By Julie Grabowski

Flowers, lunch outings, card and gifts do not a Mother's Day make. In fact, one calendar mandated day doesn't really mean much when it comes to honoring a supporting pillar of our lives. Sure we adore our Moms, but trying to stuff all that love and appreciation into a 24-hour (and let's face it, more like two or three hour) window is simply inane and insufficient. We will always come up short.

The idea of a day celebrating your mother is a lovely thing, but many are probably guilty of slacking off the rest of the year and using Mother's Day as a redeeming weapon. The second Sunday in May has everyone crowding into restaurants, offering activities and gifts in an effort to prove their affections and make mom feel special. And for many women the day presents a challenge; her own family is planning something for her, but she needs to do something for her mother, who in turn has her own mother to think about, and everyone is trying to mark the holiday in this small space of time. The pressure and expectation can turn the day into more of a stress factor and something to check off the "To Do" list than a natural, heartfelt expression of love.

So why not make your own Mother's Day? Wouldn't it be wonderful to surprise your mom on some random Monday or Thursday in March or September? How much more special would that time and experience be, coming just from you without the dictate of country and shopping ads?

Ultimately our mothers would be better served if our attentions were spread throughout the year instead of injected into one day out of 365. Interaction, inquiry, love, respect, and gratitude should be ongoing expressions of our heart. Call your mother. Take walks or motorcycle rides together, cook her dinner, go to a museum, play cards, take up Zumba, paint her living room. Don't drive your mom to join Facebook just so she can find out what's going on in your life. Because really, it all comes down to connection. Flowers and cards once a year will never trump a collection of memories made together. So although you will probably do something for your mom this Sunday, don't rely on Mother's Day to do all of the talking.

The incomparable gift of mothers is captured with wit and beauty by former U.S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins in his poem "The Lanyard" from his collection entitled "The Trouble with Poetry." So for all you mothers out there, this is for you. On May 14, August 25, October 1, January 18, and clear into forever.

"The other day as I was ricocheting slowly
off the pale blue walls of this room,
bouncing from typewriter to piano,
from bookshelf to an envelope lying on the floor,
I found myself in the L section of the dictionary
where my eyes fell upon the word lanyard.

No cookie nibbled by a French novelist
could send one more suddenly into the past--
a past where I sat at a workbench at a camp
by a deep Adirondack lake
learning how to braid thin plastic strips
into a lanyard, a gift for my mother.

I had never seen anyone use a lanyard
or wear one, if that's what you did with them,
but that did not keep me from crossing
strand over strand again and again
until I had made a boxy
red and white lanyard for my mother.

She gave me life and milk from her breasts,
and I gave her a lanyard.
She nursed me in many a sickroom,
lifted teaspoons of medicine to my lips,
set cold face-cloths on my forehead,
and then led me out into the airy light

and taught me to walk and swim,
and I, in turn, presented her with a lanyard.
Here are thousands of meals, she said,
and here is clothing and a good education.
And here is your lanyard, I replied,
which I made with a little help from a counselor.

Here is a breathing body and a beating heart,
strong legs, bones and teeth,
and two clear eyes to read the world, she whispered,
and here, I said, is the lanyard I made at camp.
And here, I wish to say to her now,
is a smaller gift-not the archaic truth

that you can never repay your mother,
but the rueful admission that when she took
the two-tone lanyard from my hands,
I was as sure as a boy could be
that this useless, worthless thing I wove
out of boredom would be enough to make us even."
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