Essay: A mother's day like no other - or is it?

Three women sitting on white chairs in front of a sculpture
MPR News Digital Managing Editor Chris Graves (right) poses with her daughters, Emma Lindsey (left), 24, and Meredith Lindsey (center), 21, at the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden in April 2020.
Chris Graves

It will be an odd second Sunday in May this year.

There's a lot of back-and-forth about the genesis of Mother's Day. According to National Geographic the precursor to our current celebration was a "way to promote global unity after the horrors of the American Civil War and Europe’s Franco-Prussian War.''

That seems eerily fitting this year.

Somewhere along the way, the spring holiday to hug mom, bring her dandelion bouquets and burned toast and cold coffee in bed turned into a Hallmark-holiday. Consumers were expected to spend $26.7 billion this year on mom, according to the National Retail Federation.

But then just weeks ago — has it been really months ago now — the world toppled upside down and turned us outside in.

This pandemic forced us to hunker down and refocus on perhaps what matters most: Our health, our family, food on the table, a paycheck. The rest, as my long deceased mom used to say, is just sprinkles on the cake. She was right, of course.

The pandemic also brought my two adult daughters back to me after years away. For how long I do not know. I do not know much anymore about what comes next. Most days, I do not care.

With Sunday just days away, I re-read a piece I wrote eight years ago, when they were both still in school. Those foggy days when there was bickering and back talking and fighting and tantrums. I wondered if this year when so much is changing, if my own thoughts on mothering has morphed:

On the day before Mother's Day, it hit me. Right up against the side of the face. Smack. 

It's the little things, dummy.

It's the kisses on their forehead as their eyelids close. That tender time when they barely recognize you.

It's the sitting in the doctor's office when the tears roll down their face because they are sick and scared. And they hold out their hand. And clench tight. 

It's the 415th trip to the craft store at the last minute because the school project is due tomorrow.

It's the "Oh My Gods" and "I can't believe you just did thats."

It's the rushed running around in the morning. Doors slamming, backpacks flying. The walks to school, going over the spelling words just one more time. 

It's the hugs when you don't expect them.

The kisses out of nowhere -- sometimes even in front of their friends.

The handmade cards, the dandelion bouquets, the little pottery pieces, the texts and the countless phone calls.

When the 16-year-old calls you mommy. When the 13-year-old snuggles into bed next to you after the latest zombie movie.

It's the rolled eyes, the shuns, the fights and the tears.

Mothering is not about the big moments. It's the collection of all the little things.

This will be our first Mother's Days together in years. I do not know exactly how we will spend the day. That, like so many things, seems wholly inconsequential.

I have them. Here, with me. We will do little things in this big moment.

That is my gift.