Last night I stopped by a Hallmark store to pick up wrapping paper for N's birthday present. It was 8:30pm or so and I'd been working since 5:30am. I was tired and at least a little grumpy, but basically fine.
Until I walked in the door of the Hallmark store.
One moment I was simply running a quick errand, and the next, I was sobbing, bobbing in a sea of manufactured sentiment, wrestling all-too-real fear and grief and the monkey on my back.
Scittering along with four or five things on my mind, I only half noticed the display at the front of the store. Still don't know what it included, except a large pink sign: Mother's Day, May 10.
This Mother's Day, I will share my daughter not with the idea of another mother, but the living, breathing, cake-baking, diet-Coke drinking, tooth-shape-sharing fact of her. And truly, we could not be more fortunate. Katie's birth mother is a lovely, loving woman—everything I could have hoped for for my daughter. Well, everything other than that she belong only to me.
(This, of course, is beyond ridiculous. No one's children belong to them. They belong only to themselves. It's a cliche, but it's true: our children are on loan to us, all of us, no matter how they came to be our children. They grow into their own lives, as they should. My children can no more abandon me as their mother than they can un-live the lives we've shared.)
I tried to keep walking, keep moving toward the bright pink gift bags on the wall, to walk away from my own ridiculous overreaction. Breathe, Jerri. Keep breathing. I wiped my eyes on the front of my shirt.
A clerk walked up and offered me a box of Kleenex (always with the Kleenex, no?). Like with the police officer that day, the story poured out of me. The essential me was up in the rafters somewhere, watching a much crazier version of myself tell a kind young woman things she did not need to hear five minutes before closing time, when all she wanted was to count the change drawer and go home.
I managed to pay for my purchases and thank the bewildered young woman for her kindness. The display lights were out before the door closed behind me.
Driving home, sobbing and berating myself for my own ridiculousness, I made up my mind. Rather than live in fear, I'm going to live in gratitude. Home again, I emailed N, inviting her to lunch on Mother's Day weekend. I hope she accepts. I'd like to take her someplace special, someplace where we can talk and laugh and hear and tell stories of our lives and our daughter. I'd like to thank her.
Given some light and air, I'm pretty sure gratitude will spit right in fear's eye. Maybe even kick his ask.