Mother's Day can be full of conflicting feelings for me. Memories of my own mother are usually bittersweet, more bitter than sweet when the pain of losing her 13 years ago rides to the forefront. While I was luckier than some to have had her as long as I did, I'll never have pictures of her from my wedding. I'll never see her hold her grandchildren. I can tell the kids stories about her and show pictures, but they'll never know her as Grandma.
Add in the five years it took for me to become a mother myself and it's a whole new layer of painful memories. Early May took an even darker turn each year that went by and I not only didn't have my mother, I wasn't a mother yet myself. That struggle is one filled with raw and ragged retrospection, and not something I would wish on my worst enemy.
And then, after what seemed an interminable night, a dawn filled with more hope than I could have ever imagined. My life was blessed with not one but two tiny pieces of heaven. Two healthy little beings that would change my world forever in ways I'm still learning. I end every day with a sense of boundless gratitude that I get to be a mother. It's the most wonderful, joyous thing I could ever have hoped for.
Did I mention the conflicting feelings?
So now early in May each year instead of wallowing in the pit of all those discordant emotions, I have found a new tradition that serves as a container for them and myself--the multi-family camping trip. Both this year and last, and I hope many to come, I immersed myself in the chaos of roughly 50 people (half of which are children) in the bosom of Mother Nature herself. Rather than reeling with memories of Mother's Day Past, I get to teach my children along with others' how to roast a marshmallow to a perfect golden hue (extra points if you can roast the same one twice). I get to cook over open flames with a gaggle of children running around, a dozen other happily harried parents swapping stories and ingredients as we all work together to get dinner ready for a crowd. I get to breathe in the scent of campfire smoke and fresh rain, listen to the sound of the wind mingle with the laughter of little ones, and fall asleep to the sounds of my children breathing inside the tent and the forest breathing outside of it. I get to simply be, all the while feeling the blessing of living in a true community.
Whether this day finds you in joyous celebration or sorrowful contemplation, may you have a moment where you know how deeply you are appreciated. May you find peace, feel loved, and look forward with hope, be it surrounded by loved ones or on a camping trip or a simple meal made special for you. To every woman who has raised, nurtured, or otherwise positively impacted a child's life I say, Happy Mother's Day.