Last year, we had a plan to go visit my parents for the weekend. My mother makes a big deal of the holiday and holds an annual pool party, the yearly unveiling of their pool for summer use coinciding with agreeable Arizona weather right around the May date. She had a big event planned, as it was my first Mother's Day, and yet things were strained between us. At 43 and with disposable income plus a new baby, my husband and I had decided we were no longer going to stay in my parents' cramped extra bedroom on their uncomfortably small bed (replete with foot board) in their poorly ventilated home. The nearest bathroom is down the hall next to their master bedroom, and last Christmas my mom caught my husband running to the toilet in his underwear in the middle of the night. "Never again," he had exclaimed with stern eyes. Anyway, this decision to stay on our own had unexpectedly hurt my mother's feelings, given her memories of her own young married years visiting their own parents. Painful conversations had occurred, I had put my foot down, and a plan for alternative accommodation was in place. On the morning of our flight, my husband woke up feeling under the weather. I thought nothing of it and continued packing the car with myriad baby equipment, as this trip was also going to be our 6 month old's first flight. He is the picture of health, lean and muscular with no medical problems except for some recurring hemorrhoids. A week prior, I had talked him into having a band procedure, which I thought might solve the problem. In between schlepping loads, he stumbled, perspiration poured from his face, and all 6'6" of him slumped onto the couch. It took a scary minute to revive him, so we rushed to the ER, and in the harsh fluorescent lights I finally appreciated how pale he was. Hematocrit was 20%, and he was admitted overnight for a blood transfusion. I spent my first Mother's Day bringing him barbecue and magazines in the hospital (as if I don't spend enough time there already) and of course apologizing for suggesting the banding in the first place, in addition to playing single parent to my child. Trip aborted and difficult conversations sure to arise again at the next Arizona visit.
This year, Mother's Day happened when I was in Spain on a long trip... which might sound to some like an idyllic scenario. I understand that many people crave an escape from their work and hectic lives at home, but being long time rock climbers and slow travelers, my husband and I normally plan longer trips abroad where we fully immerse in a micro culture for periods of time. We had chosen the Chulilla area for its long climbing routes on tall limestone walls and its balmy spring temperatures. Only we hadn't gotten much climbing done because traveling with an active, headstrong toddler was turning out to be more difficult than we expected. The first week of our trip involved the rental car keys being thrown into the toilet by someone and then - recurring poop theme - me using said toilet before realizing where the keys were. I will spare you the details of the retrieval procedure. A couple of days later, I made the catastrophic mistake of filling our (unleaded) rental car's gas tank with diesel. WHY is the handle for diesel black and the handle for unleaded green in Europe?? Even though our pickiness and frugality usually keep us from eating out much even on trips, we decided to go out to a Mediterranean buffet in Valencia for Mother's Day. The hours for lunch in Spain are 1-5, while the hours for dinner are 8-midnight. Our normal eating time? 5-6 of course, like every other American family with a child. So lunch it was, and it was busy. We waited forever for a table in a sizeable crowd of Spaniards (we are very tall, so envision this as two giants with a giant baby swimming in a sea of tiny Europeans) on the sidewalk outside the glass doors to the buffet. The hostesses didn't even take our name; they just asked how many were in our party and we stepped back, hoping for the best. Over the course of waiting, baby grew tired and hungry. I read her stern face: What's with this late lunch business, during my naptime? We tried to calm her, but the whining grew louder, and then suddenly they took pity on us. We were seated at a cramped two-seat table near the buffet, knees touching under the table and backs of chairs touching the people behind us, and when I asked for a high chair they gave me some sort of booster seat contraption. I fussed with it for a while and then laughingly realized I had situated her in it just perfectly looking like the picture on the side - the red one with the big "X" over it. She ended up on my lap, and I barely ate anything. Hubs came and went happily many times while I entertained our crazy girl, who proceeded to fling paella and jamon in a several foot radius around our table (luckily no other diners but me became covered in food). Lunch came to a hault when she threw a plate that shattered into many pieces and then leaked through her diaper all over my lap.
A glorious day spent at the gas station after my "oh shit" moment
Like lots of mothers this recent holiday, I just might have posted some cute pictures on social media of my family frolicking on the beach (not on the day shown above), followed by comments about how lucky I am. Given the fact that for years I wasn't sure I was going to ever be one, I really do feel grateful to hear that faint little voice say, "Mama". But the sunny travel photos don't necessarily reflect the un-glamorous reality of motherhood that happens every day, with or without a dedicated holiday. Next year on Mother's Day, I don't know exactly what I'll be doing but I'm sure I'll be mothering again. And I'm sure that poop will somehow fit into the picture.