Before she left for school this morning, MissSix reminded me that the Mother’s Day Tea was this afternoon. All scrubby in my pajamas, I assured her that yes, of course I would be there, 2:30PM sharp. She smiled, waved, and went out the door. I went back to bed and scored another couple hours sleep.

I’ve been to a lot of Mother’s Day Teas now. I’ve been a mother for almost 18 years. Through the three spawn, there’s been a whole lot of juice and cookies served, flowers given, art projects lovingly made with water paints, glue, and glitter, lots of little eyes staring upwards at mine, seeing if I am pleased. I look down and I smile, smooth their flyaway hair, and hug them and tell them every time that it is wonderful. They smile back, satisfied, and go on to eat up the rest of the cookies and run around the room with their pals, while all the moms stand around with this sweet, fixed smile. It is the same, every year, every school, and I imagine it has been like this forever, and will continue on long past the time when I am ashes swirling around some grocery dumpster.

My mother called and asked about this year’s Tea, and she sounded a bit sad. She is 2000 miles away, and has not been able to see MissSix very much over her little lifetime. Couch Teen and Mr11 benefited strongly from Grandma’s presence in years past, but things changed, and we are not able to come together very often now.

Mom: I got it all so wrong. I swore I would never be like my mother, but that’s what I did. I spent all that time you were growing up cooking and cleaning and growing the garden and ironing sheets. It didn’t mean anything. I didn’t do anything with you, did I.

Me: Not really. I don’t remember being sad about it when I was little. It’s just the way things were. You guys were busy.

Mom: But all children want is time with their parents, and I didn’t give that to you. I regret it.

Me: Ah, Mom. It was all so long ago. There were good things about being alone, and figuring how to amuse myself. There really were.

Mom: I just wish I would have done it all so differently.

Me: You were a really good mom. Nobody gets it all right.

Mom: I just don’t know why it took me so long to realize these things. All my life!

Me: Well, those days were not so child-centered like they were now. All the kids were running around on their own.

Mom: I just thought I was doing the right thing, what I was supposed to do.

Me: I know.

She wasn’t looking for absolution; there was nothing to absolve, anyway. She was a good mother, and I never doubted her love for me for a single second. As she nears the last years of her life, she has nothing but time to think about what it all meant, what it was for her. I think she wishes she had more memories of Tea Parties and softball games and sidewalk chalk drawing and reading together in the big chair, rather than remembering me reading in the big chair by myself or her weeding the garden or peeling potatoes or darning socks while I did something…else. Our family was a collection of four very, very different people, with four very different agendas, and it is completely to my mom’s credit that it worked at all. There would have been nothing without her.

I wish I could give her the peace of mind that I know she would like, but it is her own life to process, and I respect her heart and intellect enough to believe that she will come away with truth, and the grounding that comes with it. It’s the whole point to being here. Figure out the truth, for you, even if it brings you things that are hard to accept.

MissSix came home from school, and immediately sat down and began to draw. A few moments later, she shoved a stack of white papers at me. “Can you send these to Grandma?”

“Dare Grandmoi, I riley wot a toy That is a jeleyfish so can you hrey to find me wan. Ples rit back I love you!”

Seven more papers followed, all of hearts, smiling jellyfish, and “I love you”’s with many, many exclamation points.