“Happy Mother’s Day, Mother!” we shouted, tumbling in with our splashy bouquets and best wishes and biggest hugs.
Startled, our mother squatted and rooted around for a stick, then hurled it at us with considerable strength. It passed clumsily by my head, followed by a rough bit of rock, then a shale disc that connected smartly with my shoulder. Rubbing my arm and laughing, I waved off the others’ help.
“Oh, Mom,” we chuckled, and implored her to get ready. She was naked and filthy and had a smudgy nest of grubs on one leg that she would occasionally stroke with a tenderness only a mother can show.
She had no intention of putting on a proper dress or giving up her grubs, so everyone stood there silently for a moment. Suddenly, a corsage was proffered sweetly to the lady of the day. Mother took the magnificent purple orchid with a crimson tulle border and stuffed it fully in her mouth, toothing at it sharply, then swallowing. The expensive blossom stopped and formed a bulge in her throat.
I then pulled out my corsage, a delicate grouping of mauve carnations for the wrist with a handy snapback elastic band. Mother ate the carnations as well, then spit them out, then finally coughed up the orchid wetly onto the ground. The half-digested flower made a juicy spoosh on the dust, and Mother looked sorry for not having given it a chance.
“Mother’s hungry, let’s go, when are the reservations, who wants brunch?” We gathered Mother up, all lovely leathery folds and downy hair, and rushed to the restaurant. Someone had suggested sushi, but since Mother always eats her food raw we eventually settled on a cakes-and-tea type place that would surely make her smile, or at least cause her to unhand her crude wooden weapon for an hour or so.
Mother loved the restaurant, thank goodness. She smelled the maître d’ and found him to her liking, as she didn’t deliver him a fatal blow to the sternum.
The menu was marvelous and no one knew what to eat. Some said the omelettes looked delicious, others thought quiche or perhaps the raspberry peach crumble. We ordered mimosas for everybody, and Mother drank everybody’s mimosas.
While we were waiting for our dishes to arrive, we begged Mother to tell us stories of when we were young, funny things we did or our first words, that sort of thing. Mother mimicked some sort of large land animal, then returned to whipping her napkin above her head in a pointedly threatening gesture to no one in particular.
Then someone pondered whom Mother liked best. Gasps went up, and giggles, but we were curious. Mom pulled the napkin around her shoulders and looked the table over. A Roman soldier to her left was picking shyly at his muffin, and next to him an abbess prayed over a pat of butter. Next to her sat about seventeen million people from the 17th Century, and next to them every homo sapiens that ever squinted at the sun. Mother’s eyes flickered across my face, then over Marie Antoinette’s, then over that of a surly street urchin who had already stolen several forks and a chair.
For a moment we guessed Mother would pick nobody or everybody, cooing that each child is different, that each one of us is special. Instead she roughly gestured at a rude hippie who turned and mouthed “burn” to all of us.
Just then the waiters arrived with our food. It took several hundred thousand waiters to serve us, freshen the water, and return with rolls, and by the time all the dishes had been presented several hundred thousand of us had died and been born.
Mom wasn’t touching her blueberry crêpes or espresso. Just as we dug into our ginger cakes and salmon scrambles she pushed back from the table, slid the crêpes into a skin satchel, and crept for the door. Her small shoulders sloped into a back brittle from hunting, gathering, and birthing several millennia worth of feral mouths and unruly minds, and she was super tired. Mom trekked wearily back to her cave, eons away from all of us, our joys, our jobs, our car problems and passing woes. We then realized that to our mother we were but bits of meat and motive, here for a moment, then not.
Sigh. Mothers. What are you going to do? We asked for more coffee and caught up like brothers and sisters have always done, exchanging mild taunts, friendly insults, and the maple syrup. Remember that war we started? Remember that time you had the Plague? What ever happened to that giant colossus you built? Remember the afternoon we split an atom? Where are the bathrooms in this place anyway? Family, such fun.