It’s a different Mother’s Day this year, just like absolutely everything in all of life is different this year. Those of us with end-of-March birthdays got to pioneer the strange new coronavirus birthday celebration, either partying without people or gathering with trepidation. Mine was takeout Italian food procured by my handsome, hand-sanitized husband, followed by a lively FaceTime session with my family. It was different, but it worked.
Now that it’s Mother’s Day, we are used to socializing with social distance. We reach out and keep in touch while staying home. We use Zoom like professionals. There are, however, some issues that are unique to Mother’s Day 2020. Not to focus on problems, but let’s anyway: The lovely restaurant brunch of yore, for example, the one where you wait an hour for a table to enjoy lavish portions and sparkling service? This year, the options are either takeout cuisine or your family cooking for you at home. The real gift will be if they also clean up the kitchen afterward, including any gnarly pots and pans left "soaking" in the sink.
Then there is the problem of what to do with us older moms. My daughters definitely place me in the “at-risk” group, since I am over 60, which freaks me out a little. The ones close enough to visit fear infecting me and causing my demise. I am more worried about the possibility of my infecting them, but this is a legitimate fear for the health of all older mothers. It is especially sad for moms who reside in retirement complexes or nursing homes where family visits are currently restricted. A possible gift for us older isolated moms is a homemade greeting card that comes in the mail, which will do the double duty of brightening our hearts and helping preserve the U.S. Postal Service.
For younger moms who have been observing the stay-at-home orders in close contact with their children for the past two months, Mother’s Day may feel like any other crazy, irregular, cooped-up day in this, the Pandemic Time of the New Normal. At least Mother’s Day isn’t a school day. But this year, these mothers will not be receiving any fabulous Mother’s Day gifts made at school with colored pasta bits or traced hands on construction paper or coiled-and-fired clay. And that’s a real shame. The truly thoughtful gift in this case might be a few hours alone, anywhere in the house, even the attic, with a potent cocktail and/or a pint of gelato and enough quiet time to remember the joys and blessings of motherhood.
I imagine mothers who are overwhelmed by the constant and physical demands of young children and mothers who can’t hug or protect their grown children would gladly trade places, at least for a day.
And think how difficult Mother’s Day 2020 might be for any mothers for whom this is their first Mother’s Day. They have perhaps had to give birth without the presence of loved ones, or been worried about contracting the virus in the hospital, or only able to show off the new baby virtually. Happy in-person events like those weird gender-reveal parties or baby showers or grandparent visits or christenings are all off-limits to new mothers. In fact, just about everything we take for granted about becoming a parent is on hold or improvised. The thoughtful gift here would be for the baby to put off being born until things get back to normal. Barring that, an unbreakable promise of future babysitting might be well-received.
Remember at the beginning of this year, when we cleverly thought that 2020 was a metaphor for 20/20, seeing clearly, with new vision, and all that? It’s been a new vision, all right: a look into a dystopian novel where small decisions can mean life or death. We have been thrust into the burning core of a pandemic where things like Mother’s Day seem trivial. But the uncertainty — and tragedy — of the virus among us has clarified our priorities and sharpened our gratitude for those we love. I have missed my own mother every Mother’s Day since 2016, but a part of me is grateful that my mother did not have to suffer through the frightening isolation of this quarantine. The dark cloud of COVID-19 reveals dubious silver linings.
On Mother’s Day, it’s always lovely for us mothers to feel valued and appreciated, especially as we try on our elbow-macaroni necklaces. This year, we value and appreciate the bounty we still have, the gifts we treasure: our children, our partners, our health, our homes, our resilience, our flexibility, our creativity, our solidarity and our ever-expanding hearts. The rest can wait. On this Mother’s Day, with 20/20 vision, we see that the rest is just stuff.