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Women In My Family HATED Mothers Day!
My grandmother was born during the first part of May. Rather than celebrate her birthday on the day, it was combined with - you guessed it - Mother's Day. Great for her, bad for the rest of the women in the family after they too became mothers. Well, all but the daughter Grandma lived with whom I'll call Auntie. Her children would be there anyway.
Attending this annual gathering was mandatory if one wished to avoid familial purgatory for the next 364 days.
Only the daughter who lived in California was excused, which naturally made her a source of great envy. While the rest of us were forcing ourselves to make nice nice at Auntie's, she was having the Mother's Day we could only dream about. Brunch with her husband and sons at a nice restaurant, then whatever she wanted to do for the rest of the day.
She'd always call Grandma just as we were tucking into lukewarm fried chicken and baked beans on TV trays, to say she wished she could be there. Sure she did - same as she wished she could be having a root canal...
The day's schedule was practically carved in stone.
Arrive as close to 11 a.m. as possible. Add your gift to the pile on the table next to the birthday cake.
If Grandma ever minded it was a combination birthday and Mother's Day present, she never said so. I suspect she was glad to only get one from each of us. How many different ways can one "gush" over yet another new dress, scarf, or piece of jewelry?
At 11:30, start filling your plate. Eat off a TV tray in the living room, or go through the garage to the patio and balance the plate in your lap.
At 12:30, gather around the dining room table to watch Grandma blow out the candles. She lived to 103, so the number of candles didn't really matter after she hit 50 or 60. (Or Auntie didn't want to want to bother with a burn permit...)
The cake would be cut and served.
Grandma would move to her favorite chair in the living room and open gifts.
Around 1:00, the Ritual of Renewed Bonding would begin. The Uncles and a few older male cousins would retire to the patio. The rest of us would sit or stand in the living room and listen to Auntie's grown, ubersuccessful children brag about their latest promotions, and the latest educational achievements of their equally brilliant children.
Grandma, of course, would have heard it all after their arrival the day before. Bless her heart, as soon as she could get a word in, she'd try to give the rest of us a chance to brag. Never worked. What could anyone possibly say that could be the least bit interesting after knowing Auntie's children and grandchildren were the best at everything.
By now it'd be close to 3:00 and we could begin making our exits.
Nice to see you, Grandma.
Happy Mother's Day.
blah, blah, blah, blah.
I always wondered what the Uncles talked about out on the patio while the rest of us were inside pretending to be impressed by Auntie's children.
One year I finally found out....
What follows was considered deep conversation among the men in the family:
Uncle #1: Nice weather.
Five minutes later, Uncle #2: Yep.
Another five minute interval.
Uncle #3: Think it'll rain?
Five more minutes of silence.
Uncle #1: Might.
Five (or ten) more minutes.
Uncle #3: Hear that on the radio?
Tick, tick, tick, tick, tick.
Uncle #1: Yep.
That's how it went, I kid you not, with only slight variations, until their wives came out to say it was time to leave.
Some of the out-of-town Cousins and I began rebeling at having to waste a perfectly good Sunday afternoon in May listening to Auntie's kids brag. We came up with our own schedule that allowed us to stay in Grandma's good graces but avoid the brag session.
We'd all arrive at 11:25, just in time to drop our gifts on the dining room table on the way to the food. We'd plant ourselves around Grandma so we could chat with her while we ate. At 12:30 she'd blow out the candles, we'd eat cake while she opened gifts...gush, gush...and at 1:00 we'd say our goodbyes.
In and out in 90 minutes. Brilliant.
Took the Aunts (Auntie's sisters) a couple of years to figure it out, and then they too began coming up with reasons to leave at 1:00. Which, naturally, was a huge disappointment for the Uncles. No more Male Bonding Sessions on the patio.
As I said before, Grandma lived to 103. Except for the daughter in California, two generations of women had never known what it was like not to spend Mother's Day at Auntie's.
Is it any surprise then that when the second-youngest aunt was told Grandma had expired, the first thing out of her mouth was "Hallelujah! I can finally have my own Mother's Day!".
It would take one more Annual Gathering for the rest of us to break the habit.
The last part of April, we each received an invitation from Auntie to gather as usual, "because we always have". But not at her house, mind you. At a park on the other side of town "so the little ones will have a place to play". Funny, her back yard had been a perfectly good place for decades for the kids to play, but now it wasn't.
Those of us who came that year did so partly out of habit and partly out of curiosity. This side of the family had never been a huggy-kissy bunch, so it didn't take long to verify the only reason we showed up all those years previously was out of respect for Grandma. No Grandma, no reason to waste any part of a perfectly good Sunday in May kissing Auntie's...uh, ring.
The next year, nobody came except, naturally, Auntie's kids and grandkids.
So now you know why women in my family hated Mother's Day.