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Curtain Call on the Mother's Day Cabaret

by Kathryn Frazier  
5/05/2010 / Holidays

My first Mother's Day as a mother. It turned out to be our first big misunderstanding. I woke early, but stayed in bed to allow my young husband time to get the surprise ready. I could hear him in the kitchen. Was he setting up flowers? Balloons? Breakfast in bed? I giggled with anticipation.

"Stay put," I told myself. "Don't spoil it. He'll come get you when it's time." I waited for my cue. And waited. It never came. He must be waiting for me, I figured. I brushed my hair and knotted my robe (in case he would be taking pictures), then floated out, a grand Mother's Day entrance.

But nothing was there. Where was the show? I looked around the living room, then went to the kitchen.

"John," I said, "Is there anything?"

"What do you mean?" he asked. He looked at me with the innocence of one who had no idea how much trouble he was in.

Some little girls dream of their wedding day. I dreamed of my first Mother's Day. I blame my parents. Their annual performance of Mother's Day Cabaret set the bar too high. It opened with Dad stumbling over himself to present flowers, candy, jewelry, and small appliances to his beloved. Breakfast in bed was automatic. Then came roses, lunch at a fancy restaurant, and dinner wherever Mom wanted. Even during the pre-women's liberation era, chores on Mother's Day were strictly man's work.

Mom brushed the adulation off as a matter of course, while Dad deplored the inadequacy of his pitiful gestures. He wished only that he could donate an organ or cut off an ear to present to the mother of his children. Mom nobly declined his offers of blood, which made her all the more irresistible. This looked like a good gig to me.

Now, in the spring of 1987, it was my turn. With the birth of our first child, I joined the cast. Like my mother before me, on this, my first Great Mother's Day, I would eschew blood sacrifices, and beneficently allow my adoring husband to serve mefor his sakeas but a token of his unending gratitude.

I was ready to take my place among the distinguished gentlewomen who arrive at church early, sporting fresh corsages, and comparing stories of delights bestowed. I was ready for the preacher to call us to stand and be honored. I was ready for the carnation and for the applause. Most of all, I was ready for my husband to show me he loves me.

Now he stood before me in a bathrobe and bare feet. No flowers on the table. No breakfast in bed. Nothing. I stared at him in disbelief.

"It's Mother's Day," I said.

John wrinkled his brow. "What do you mean?" He's a man of few words.

"I mean. It's. Mother's. Day." More forceful this time. "Did you forget?"

"No," he said, "I know it's Mothers Day."

"I heard you doing something," I offered, in case he'd been taken by amnesia, and just needed a jolt to remember the gift hidden in the cupboard.

"I was making coffee," he said, pouring himself a cup.

"That's all?" I asked.

He stared at me. "Do you want some?"

"I thought you were doing something," I said.

He sipped his coffee. "What do you mean?"

"I mean, I thought you would do something for me for Mother's Day."

"You did? Really?"

I distinctly remember telling him, "This will be my first Mother's Day with the baby." I asked his opinion as I deliberated over my wardrobe for the big event. (I wanted to convey blossoming maturity, but still show that I was the same fun-loving girl that I was before the baby arrived. I think I nailed it, by the way, with the Barbara Bush double strand of faux pearls.) How could he miss it?

"I've been talking about this for weeks. You're supposed to do something," I said.

"But," he explained slowly, as if I were not so bright, "You're not my mother."

Let that sink in a minute.

"I am the mother of your child!" I shrieked.

"Well, it's up to children to do something for their mothers," John said, brushing past me. Little did I know, six month old Elisabeth would do something for me that day. And it was a doozy.

Reality, like a curtain call, brought my fantasy to a close. From the nursery, the baby cried. I blinked back tears and went to her. Welcome to the Mommy Club. As it turns out, Mommies don't always get recognition.

John and I exchanged words that morning. It seems he had never seen the Mother's Day Cabaret. There were no special shows in his childhood. No improvisation. His parents played the same familiar roles every day of the year. He brought me flowers that afternoon, but only because I asked for them.

After twenty-three Mother's Days, John still has to be reminded to pick up flowers. But I no longer take it personally. He picks them up when I ask, because he loves me. I make sure to tell him what kind of flowers I like. He forgets.

And the gift that Elisabeth had for me? On my first Mother's Day, my first child said her first word. I carried her to the car before church. As she watched her daddy walk along beside us, I buckled her into her car seat. She looked me in the eyes, smiled, and said, "Da-da".

Copyright 2011, Kathryn A. Frazier.
Kathryn lives with her husband and children in Tampa, Florida. It's hot there. And swampy. With gators. She's really brave.

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