H A P P Y M O T H E R ' S D A Y-- ;
It’s a difficult day for me. It always has been too. In school, while everyone was asking about plans, and shooting gift ideas back and forth, I was the odd man out. I sat around quietly, listening, but never engaging. To me, it was just another day. My mother probably wouldn’t be home anyway. She’d probably be off drinking to forget it was Mother’s Day -- to forget she’d made the mistake of becoming a mother in the first place. But how could I tell people that when they were just trying to involve me? I couldn’t, so I always just kept my mouth shut.
I didn’t have any plans, and I never had any real gift ideas -- nor did I ever try thinking of one -- but I had a tradition of my own that I couldn’t explain to my nosy teachers or classmates. Each year, on Mother's Day, I’d leave a rose I got from the gas station on her pillow. She never acknowledged it, but I always felt the need to do it, because a part of me couldn’t stand the dysfunction of not celebrating. A part of me hated to tell the people around me I didn’t celebrate because I had no relationship with her. A part of me just wanted some kind of normalcy about it.
I pondered this every time I stood at the card rack for Sarah while we were married, and I find myself pondering it now as I stand at Walgreens choosing between a blue rose or a yellow one. They’re plastic, but they’re a step up from the gas station ones I used to get my mom. Each one has a different frilly bow. The yellow one has a purple bow and Sarah hates purple, so I go for the blue. Savannah runs up to me with her arms full of chocolate. “What’s all that?” I laugh, kneeling down so I can help her get some of it. I told her one, but she’s always been an over-achiever.
“Mom likes all these and I couldn’t decide!”
I look over the pile. She’s not wrong. Sarah could have spent an hour in the store picking out candy, because she liked everything. “MM’kay, I guess we’re getting these. You find a card too?”
“Yeah!” She hands me a card tucked away in her little hot pink purse she’s been carrying around. The card has a bouquet of flowers and a sweet message on it. I look it over briefly, then throw it in our basket. “Is that flower for mom too?” Savannah asks, her eyebrows furrowed.
“It is. You think she’ll like that one?”
“Yeah…” Savannah smiles. “Is it from you?”
“We’ll say it’s from us both.”
“Mom never gets you something for Father’s day, ‘cause you guys aren’t married anymore,” Savannah informs me. She looks guilty, like she’s tattling, but I’ve already known about that obviously.
I should stop getting her things, I guess, but just like with my own mother, I can’t stand the lack of normalcy in it. More importantly, I don’t want Savannah to suffer the lack of normalcy in it. Me taking her shopping for this is our tradition, and without me taking her, it’d just become another day. I don’t want her to have the same lack of connection I did. “Eh well, we’re not married, but she’s still your mom, right?”
Savannah doesn’t seem satisfied. I know as I say it that it doesn’t explain why Sarah never gets me anything. “Yeah… but what about you?”
“Some people see it differently.” I stand up to walk to the register, taking Savannah’s hand. “She doesn’t have to get me anything, and you’re right, I don’t really have to get her anything, but I want to. And plus, you and I get to go together, which is pretty awesome, right?”
”Heh, yeah!” Savannah beams. She has her mom’s smile. It makes Walgreens look like a place in Heaven. It centers me every time I feel like I’m losing myself. She’s a good kid. She doesn’t deserve this awkwardness.
“Then I say the tradition continues on. What about you?”
“The tradition continues on!” Savannah agrees, then starts to march ahead of me.
Walking up to my own house never gets easier. Despite everything I say and think about keeping some level of peace between us, I can’t help but resent the place. I can’t help the way my chest aches every time I have to ring the doorbell ( it’s custom, and I’m the one who installed the damn thing ) of a house I paid for and tailored completely to fit us. Sarah answers the door with the same indifference on her face as always. She’s learned to turn off the scowl every time she sees me, but I don’t think I like the indifference much better. I think she’s taking pity on me. I look like Hell still from my most recent escapade. They say getting clean makes you healthier, but I’ve never felt weaker in my life. Most of the time I can barely hold myself up, but I keep having to remind myself that it’s still early. I still have a long way to go.
Savannah runs up and gives me a quick hug, “Love you daddy!” She says, then rushes inside with the Walgreens bag she’s trying to hide from Sarah.
I smile, watching her. “Love you, honey,” I call out.
Sarah watches her, then shakes her head, smiling. Then she turns to me and clears her throat. The tension Savannah cleared immediately returns. “Thanks for taking her.”
“Sure. Happy Mother’s Day, or somethin’,” I tease, holding the rose out to her.
I did this last year too. Last year, she threw it in my face, but this time it makes her laugh. “You know, you don’t have to keep doing this.”
I’m already halfway down the steps, headed back to my car. “I know I don’t.”
I revert back to the kid who’s laying roses on his mom’s pillow, not expecting anything, but not able to stop himself. I know I don’t, but once again, I can’t stand the lack of normalcy. Once again, I can’t resist. I hate this stupid holiday.