We are sitting in a first-grade classroom, surrounded by ladies trying to cram their legs under the small desks. We have our children on our laps and the light is dimmed. I am at your daughter's Mother's Day Tea Party.
First the teacher plays a slideshow of class activities from the school year. Math centers, One Hundred Day, field trips. Smiling faces.
Then comes the crying song. A little girl whispers, "Don't cry!" to her mom. The song begins and a video montage of children shows on the screen, projected over a white board schedule of the school day. Newborn pictures. Babies learning to crawl and walk. First birthdays. Splashing in the surf. Children growing up. "Slow down..." the artist sings, and suddenly I am plunged into the blankness of having no memory.
No memory of her newborn face. Her first smile. Her first tooth. I don't know what her first word was. Mommy? Or daddy, kitty, something else? When did she start talking? What was her favorite food? And sitting there, with her snuggled on my lap calling me "mom", I can only think of you.
You held her when she was a newborn. That is only blankness to me.
You watched her learn to walk. I can only guess.
You taught her to pray. Now I listen as she prays for you.
Where are you? What is on your mind this Mother's Day? Do you think of her?
Do you know your children call me "Mom"?
I don't know what could make someone forget a whole life. Leave behind the memories and the home and the children. I don't know your pain. But I think of you often; when I rock your baby, when it's time for new shoes, when I see the "A"s on report cards. When they draw their family for a school project and it's me, not you, labeled with a crooked "MOM".
When I hear them singing, "God's not Dead" as loudly as they can, remembering how it was their favorite song, how you played it in the car for them. I don't judge you. I know life is hard and you have demons to face. I just wish you could have faced those demons instead of running. I wish you hadn't given up.
The song ends but I can't get the thoughts out of my head. I go through the motions. We have our tea, eat our cookies. We taste each other's treats and then trade. She tries to finish my cinnamon tea but it's too strong, and we laugh.
She takes me on a tour of the classroom and we talk about books. She loves to read. Does she get that from you? We admire the mother's day whiteboard where the children all wrote messages to their mothers. I am there. You are not. I grieve for you.
I'm the only mom here who's child doesn't "match". Her black hair and dark skin are noticeably different from mine. No one treats us differently but today it's present in my thoughts. This is your day. I grieve for you.
We look at the daily schedule and the chart of lost teeth. We try to remember which month her tooth was lost in. We laugh. We wonder why no teeth were lost in January.
She shows me where the chapter books are, and I ask her if she's read them. No, her teacher doesn't know she reads chapter books at home. I urge her to ask her for a chapter book to read at school; she is too shy. She loves her teacher but is afraid she'll say no. I ask for her, and of course she's allowed to pick out several. Her teacher is delighted. I think of you. You don't know she can read. Have you wondered, or is she even on your mind? I grieve for you.
We make small talk. We rinse off our plates and gather our things. She made me a planter with her silhouette on it. I smile and chat, but I can only think of you. I feel like I'm watching someone else's life. This should be your day. Your tea. Your laughter. Your planter.
It should be you getting the hugs and "I love you"s.