For Those Who Mother

An Unexpected Dilemma

The flower bins at Claiborne Hills, usually so skimpy in their offerings, were fat with flowers, and I realized the bounty was for tomorrow’s Mother’s Day. I studied the roses and whatever flower it is they falsely color pink so that it looks like when we children stood white spirea in a glass of water with food coloring and waited for the dye to travel up the stem and stain the blossoms an unnatural red or yellow. I did not choose those.

This is my first Mother’s Day without my mother on this side of the scrim. Ads for Mother’s Day gifts bring on small panic attacks: I haven’t gotten Mother’s gift in the mail! Then I realize I cannot mail her a gift, at least not using the USPS.

I studied the bins. What flowers to buy? Or, having originally only wanted a bouquet for me, should I forgo them altogether if not for my mom?

When the Branches Reach Outward

Immediately after Mother’s death on May 29th of last year, my younger sister declared that we sisters now had to mother each other. It would be up to us to fill in those gaps that would yawn when we would ordinarily pick up the phone to tell Mother of an accomplishment, or email her to share how our days had been, or send a photo of our families together for her to keep up with all. (Mother lived in Charlotte where none of her five far-flung children live.)

We’ve done it.

My oldest sister most deliberately told me she would be the reader I’d lost in Mother, who read every word I wrote even when her macular degeneration forced her to do it one…letter…at…a…time.

Our youngest sister texts to specifically ask how I am doing psychologically with this interminable quicksand journey of trying to get a novel traditionally published.

The sister closest to me in age picks up the phone when I can’t grapple with an emotional situation on my own— listening, offering her analogy-filled advice, calming me down, texting me afterwards to tell me I have a good heart.

We’ve stretched ourselves, our fingertips have touched, and what had been a pyramid has softened to a circle.

Stretching Further

We’ve mothered each other, yes, and we’ve mothered others.

The boy child my youngest sister has nurtured from birth to his tween years, and all the kids she coaxed into loving the James River.

The daughters my older sisters have fed and guided until now they are grown women out in the world, marrying, working, having children of their own.

The step-sons and daughters-in-law and nieces and cousins and women friends I’ve loved with that fierce love that will stand in the breach for them no matter where it gapes.

The roots and branches and tangled knots we’ve created that, when you step back and study, you see the intertwined fingers of God, holding on, holding up, love made flesh by mothering care.

The Blossoms

Calla lilies + roses from Bigmama’s rose bush that my father Daddy Joe gave to his mother on her first Mother’s Day.

Calla lilies and roses

Comments (13)

  • Oh Ellen, I love everything you write. This essay especially touches my heart as I face the first Mothers Day without my Andrew, my only son. As with you and your sisters the circle of my daughters and grandchildren, and son-in-law draws close around me. Sanibel island awaits later today where my daughters and granddaughter will celebrate with me and ease my broken heart. Thank you.

    • Ellen Morris Prewitt

      Nancy, I never thought about the mirror of what I wrote about. It seems even harder to me, the first MD without your beloved son. So glad you will have a circle surrounding you in love. <3

  • Thank you for the thoughtful, sensitive post, Ellen. This was my second Mother’s Day without my mom, with the second anniversary of her death coming up later this month. It was really difficult seeing all the news coverage of people being reunited with their children and grandchildren after being apart because of the pandemic. The last time we saw our daughter in the UK was December 2019 and we don’t know when we will get to see her and our two granddaughters, one of whom was born last year and we have only been able to see via screen. It’s just been hard.

    • Ellen Morris Prewitt

      You’re welcome, Joanne. When I was writing this post, I didn’t think of how separated by the pandemic we all have been. Reunions are bringing joy, and continued separations on this day deepened the sorrow. We’ve been lucky in that our whole family is vaccinated and either here in NOLA or a short drive to Memphis. I can’t imagine what it’s been like for you to have your family abroad during this time, during the birth, during it all. My heart is with you.

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