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Sisterhood of the Motherless Daughters

My poor husband, Black Man Not Blogging (BMNB). He doesn't need a calendar to know when Mother's Day is coming. My annual stank attitude around Mother's Day is more than enough warning.

If my attitude around Mother's Day had a smell, it would be this: Picture a huge pot of gumbo with every kind of meat you can imagine in it -- shrimp, crab, oysters, sausage, chicken, fish. Now imagine that pot of gumbo left outside, covered, for 30 days in 100 degree heat. Imagine that at day 15 someone threw in a dead skunk and put the cover back on.

That smell on day 30 would be the smell of my stank Mother's Day attitude.

Mother's Day is a stark reminder that, going on eleven years, I unwillingly joined what I call the "Sisterhood of the Motherless Daughters" -- women whose mothers are deceased. You know us when you see us. On Mother's Day morning, usually before church, we're at the cemetery. Most of us are in our late 30's and up, taking on the body shapes of our mothers. In my case, that means a wide butt and a tummy. I didn't get my mother's late-life ample bosom, though.

We acknowledge each other in a knowing way; we're all bearing flowers, most of us dressed well to celebrate the day on what I would call the "receiving end" -- being acknowledged as mothers. For my biological sisters and I, all of us childless and middle-aged, we don't celebrate the receiving end of the day. My "spiritual" sisters in this sisterhood lovingly place flowers at the crypts or graves of their departed mothers. Some laugh and joke, some talk to their deceased mothers, some join hands and pray, but we all seem to acknowledge each other with that slight, encouraging smile that says, "Yes, I know what you're feeling; it's tough for me, too."

I rarely see as many sons at the cemetery on Mother's Day as I do daughters, which makes my membership in this sisterhood all the more emphasized.

Mind you, I have much to celebrate even without my mom, SWIE (She Who Is Exalted). I have a great mother-in-law -- I could not have asked for better. My dad's wife is kindly and funny and a force of nature even going on 95 years of age, and although she is sweet, I can't bring myself to call her my "stepmom" because that title includes the word "mom" -- a title I only use in speaking of or to SWIE. I could celebrate Mother's Day with either of them. I have in the past celebrated it with my mother-in-law. But at this juncture in life, I feel about Mother's Day the way I imagine Jews feel about Christmas -- I'm happy for those who celebrate it, but I feel I have nothing to celebrate.

There's so much I miss about Mother's Day, and none of it has anything to do with not being a mother myself, but rather, being a motherless daughter. I miss the competition between my siblings and me to figure out what Mom would want and to be the first to go out and get it. Although she would appreciate our gifts equally, we would kid each other about how "our" gift was the one she really wanted or loved. Our last minutes forays through Macy's would put contestants on "The Amazing Race" to shame.

I miss the inevitable phone call between Mom and her best friend, her older sister, comparing what they got and talking about other people's triflin' children who didn't deliver the goods on Mother's Day.

After Mom died, my sisters and I transferred all our Mother's Day gift-giving energies to my mom's sisters. Although they appreciated the Estee Lauder perfume (one of my aunts said she liked smelling as good as "white ladies"), they were even more appreciative of the visits from all four of us.

Then they, too, passed away, leaving my sisters and me kind of bereft. Now, we just bring extra flowers to the cemetery for my mom, her sisters, and her mother on Mother's Day. Anything else on that day -- going to church with my mother-in-law, doing Mother's Day events -- just feels false to me. I had a good run of 64 years with my mom. My days of celebrating Mother's Day, other than the visits to the cemetery, are done. Mother's Day to me is just a reminder of all that I lost, hence the annual stank attitude I didn't even notice I had until a few years ago.

When I explained this to BMNB recently, he said, "I understand." I know he didn't mean it in the cliched, Bill Clinton-esque "I feel your pain" way, but it just sounded that way to me.

"No, you really don't," I calmly told him. "But someday, you will. And I wouldn't wish that on you for anything in the world."

For those of you who still have mothers, do cherish them and enjoy Mother's Day. Because you never really know how many Mother's Days you're going to have, and I wouldn't wish membership in this sisterhood on anyone for anything in the world.


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