Are You My Checker?

Yesterday, the checker at the grocery store greeted us with a chirpy, “Happy Mothers Day!”

I didn’t say anything.

Believe me, this is better than saying what I wanted to say. I have a bit of a reputation as having a smart mouth. My only defense is that people have no idea how much discretion I really exercise. So many things I never say out loud.

I wanted to tell her, “I’m not a mother.”

Which isn’t precisely true. I’m a stepmother. Kind of an after-the-fact one, since David and I aren’t legally or religiously married. But I’ve been part of my stepchildrens’ lives for 18 years, so I count it. They don’t count it and don’t acknowledge me on Mothers Day. There are a lot of reasons for that, most of them having to do with loyalty to their mother. I understand those reasons and don’t blame them. But yeah, I have a few issues with the day.

For the most part, I don’t mind. It means a great deal to me to celebrate my own mother. I wrote her my own little ode yesterday. But when the Safeway chick greets me with something like that, I shudder at the presumption and carelessness.

The decision to be a mother or not is a fraught thing. Some women are mothers without wanting to be. Some want to be and can’t. Some have children who die tragic deaths. Some women choose not to have children. It’s intensely personal, regardless of which category you fall into.

Even going the other direction, celebrating your own mother can be an emotional minefield. I have a friend whose mother died, much too young from cancer, a few years ago. Her mother died only a week before Mothers Day. She still grieves.

Yes, the checker was only trying to be chirpy and friendly. Which is why I didn’t snap at her. I couldn’t quite dredge up the smile and happy “thank you” she was looking for, but I did the best I could.

I think all of us are doing the best we can. It’s important to remember that a greeting card holiday does not make this a greeting card world. Sometimes instead of a sweet poem inside, there might be a well of pain. Perhaps it’s best not to assume.

9 Replies to “Are You My Checker?”

  1. Bless you. Mother’s Day is lost to me, both coming and going, and not by my choice. I hate the cutesy ads and the admonishments to call Mom on Mother’s Day and the banners and billboards shouting about all the shiny stuff for Mom on Mother’s Day.

    So I try to remember that the clerks are well-meaning and the banners are just ads, but it’s nice that somebody else has considered the presumptiousness of the day.

  2. Thanks for the validation, Marin. I hesitated to write about this, so I’m glad it spoke to someone else.

  3. I agree with you a bit Jeffe. Now mind you, the 2-3 times I was greeted with “Happy Mother’s Day” this weekend, I did have my 3 in tow, so I had those coming :-).

    But on the other hand, I happen to have to have several friends that have either lost their unborn children, or their children shortly after birth.

    And, thank God, all 3 of mine are safe and healthy, but I lost my Grandma a few years back, the for some reason, I took this Mother’s Day a bit hard without her.

    So I agree that people should use a bit of caution in their random Happy Mother’s Day wishes (even if it’s evident that they are mothers) and to stop using the phrase like it’s Merry Christmas or Happy Birthday or something.

  4. I feel obligated to point out that “Merry Christmas” is far from universally innocuous, as well. And some folks aren’t terribly happy about aging, either. In the end, I reckon it’s impossible to avoid offending everybody.

  5. There’s the PC-voice stepping in. I disagree. “Merry Christmas” can mean I am wishing you the joy of this season I celebrate. The potential pain of a “Happy Birthday” greeting to someone who minds aging is nothing on this scale. Lumping this kind of thing into “eh, everyone is offended by something” syndrome just shows more carelessness.

  6. “Happy Mothers’ Day” CAN just be an attempt to share the joy of that particular day, as well. I, who am demonstrably not a mother, had many people wish me Happy Mothers’ Day.

    Those who feel like Christmas is an attack on themselves and their way of life have to endure it from all sides for an ever-increasing span of weeks.

    I might suggest that assuming your pain and offense is more real or significant than someone else’s just represents another brand of carelessness.

  7. Excellent post…and you brought up two other things I wanted to say in my blog post but couldn't quite bring myself to delve into this time…..the moms who have lost children (including my own mom as I had a sister who passed away 20 years ago so kind of hits close to home, and those who have lost their moms–I have many friends who have.) I think the majority of people mean well, but it can still sting for so many. And p.s….I tihnk your stepkids are very lucky to have you.

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