Dogwood Day

Dogwood Tree

We celebrate Mother’s Day in the United States this Sunday.

A day to celebrate and give thanks to the woman who … birthed you? The woman who raised you? Or perhaps more simply stated, that special woman in your life when you were a child?

I can think of a few who fall under the last category — a special woman in my life when I was a child — but I cannot call them mine and I cannot call them “Mother.” There is only one woman in my life who claims the name, “Mother.”

While we’re not supposed to talk about this and we’re certainly not supposed to draw attention to it — this is a painful day for many. What do we do with that pain? How do we hold a space for it when Hallmark tells us not to? What if you don’t want to celebrate this day? What if you hate your mother and she is a monster? Like my mother.

What do I do with that?

Do I celebrate Mother’s Day? After all, I am a mother. A good one I might add. I love being a mother. 

What if it’s a day of deep sorrow because your mother is no longer living? What if the mother in your life is declining? What if your mother’s memory is fading and she doesn’t remember you? What if the relationship you have with your mother is not the one you’d always hoped for? What if you’ve always wanted to be a mother and are not one? What if you don’t know your mother? What if … ? You see where I’m going right? The what if’s are endless.

What do we do with all of that?

Are we bad or wretched if we experience Mother’s Day as a painful day? Or a confusing day?

What if you’re like me, a mother with a loving partner and young children who want to celebrate you? They ask me, “Mommy, how do you want to celebrate your day?” But I can’t quite find the words. Because truthfully I don’t really have the answers. I want to celebrate and I want to hide. I want to do both.

As Mother’s Day draws closer my stomach tightens. I feel myself more short tempered, more vulnerable … more tired and weary. I feel like a kite soaring in the wind and I have to reach out to my husband and friends calling out, “You’re holding the end of the string, right? Don’t let me go. I might just float away …”

My feelings and thoughts swirling like the wind twisting and turning. Wanting to be with my family but knowing that on some level the hole in my heart will be all the more raw for having to endure the day. There’s that.

Oh, what to do with that?

Being a grown woman who finally accepted that no matter what I do, I will never have a mother who is well enough to truly see me. I will always have a mother who chose to open the door when the predator came knocking. I will never have a mother who listened to me when I hollered … begged, “No! Please! Please, don’t open the door!” I will never have the mother who chose her daughter over a pedophile. Ever.

This is my second Mother’s Day without my mother. I closed the door when she last came knocking.

I will not welcome sickness into my home. No longer will I tell her she is a good mother. I refuse to lie to her or myself anymore. There is nothing I can do to make my mother love me the way I needed her to. I spent most of my life trying. Believe me I did. I tried. But she didn’t budge.

Knowing this is my freedom. Accepting this is my story. Sharing it will hopefully help others with their own journey.

I will no longer walk to the tree, shake its branches, scale its trunk and desperately beg it to give me a delicious peach. My mother is not a Peach Tree. For years she convinced me that she was. Telling me that I was always asking at the wrong season, that the peaches had worms, or that the frost had gotten to them.

There were never any peaches to be had. Ever.

I can now see that I have been asking the wrong tree to feed me. My mother is not a Peach Tree. She never was. I’d venture to say she is a Dogwood Tree. And I do this because it makes me laugh … A tree that blooms and blossoms; with its pretty springtime flowers it convinces the world it is something it is not. In summer the Dogwood never bears delicious fruit. Ever.

I can be my own Peach Tree. I have been this for myself over and over again. I am this for my children. For my husband. For my friends. I know this now. I do. But knowing doesn’t take away my sadness, nor my disappointment and that deep painful wound in my heart. Where the smallest person inside of myself says over and over again, “All you had to do was not open the door.”

I am fearful of this day coming. I get frightened she will call and that the mere sound of her voice will leave me feeling like a cannonball has been shot into my stomach. Her voice drowning me like the depths of the ocean growing darker and darker until there is darkness engulfing me at the very bottom. I am afraid of this every day; of hearing her voice which drowned out my pleas for help. Her voice declaring I was crazy. Her voice telling me I was not worthy of stopping the abuse.

But she’s wrong. I am worth closing the door for. I am worthy of a bushel full of peaches. I’m worthy of celebrating. Sometimes I have to remind myself of this. Mostly on holidays. 

If you have a mother you don’t feel like celebrating, take comfort in knowing you are not alone. If you feel sorrow on Mother’s Day for whatever reasons, whether you have words for them or not, I am holding you in my heart.

If you have a mother who is truly a Peach Tree, honor her, hold her and be thankful for your precious, precious gift. You are blessed.

Whoever you are — man, woman, mother, father, all of the above, none of the above — celebrate yourself on Mother’s Day. Celebrate your goodness. And while I have always chosen to see you in your goodness, if you have a door that needs closing, be brave within your fear and ask for help in closing it.

Much love to you. Take care.

22 replies »

  1. Beautifullly and thoughtfully written as always; but this post really struck me because I have been grappling with the same issues.

    You are incredibly brave to close the door and I admire you for celebrating yourself. i agree completely with your acceptance of the fact that you will never get the mothering from your biological mother so you celebrate your own internal mother that you are growing and the mother that you are to your own family. That is an incredible feat which only a very self-aware person would be able to strive for.

    My relationship with my mother teeters between pity and hatred. She texts me and I text her back about unimportant things! She recently asked if she could call and I dont have the courage to say I can’t speak to her on the phone. i have not confronted her; only distanced myself in the last year.

    I feel like a fake because I ordered a cake for her which will arrive on Mothers Day.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for your thoughts and reflections and sharing your own experiences. My first inclination is to want to tell you to give yourself a break about the fake-cake! 😉 If that’s the way you chose to take care of yourself, then good for you for doing what works for you right now. This year. In this moment. My hunch after reading your work and witnessing your own process, your relationship with yourself will continue to grow and you’ll make choices that feel more authentic with regards to your relationship with your mother. I certainly haven’t figured it all out, but one thing I know for certain is that we just keep growing if we’re open to it and it certainly seems to me that you are. XO

      Liked by 1 person

      • Nothing is. I wish we could sit and have a coffee and I could hold your heartache and the grayness and you could hold mine. I have been traveling since Friday afternoon. My paternal grandparents were vacationing in Greece and my grandmother was hospitalized. My aunt who is a physician and I came to help and hopefully take her home. She’s quite critical and would have died had we not come … and still may. My grandfather has dementia and the travel has made him much worse. All I can say is that we need to be compassionate towards ourselves. I truly get the anger/mixed feelings you have about sending the cake. It feels disingenuous. But you were doing your best to make sense of the gray and it doesn’t matter really, right? What matters is that you/we continue to heal our hearts and find compassion for ourselves and the way we are trying to navigate our journey. To be wholehearted and loving to ourselves. At least that’s where my heart sits today. Much love to you today. Blessings.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Oh I am sorry to hear that you have been struggling with illness in your family. Praying that your grandmother recovers and that both her and your grandfather will be as comfortable as possible.

        Yes you are right we are all doing the best we can and the last thing we need to do is be hard on ourselves. Life itself has been hard enough on us!

        Sending you love and hugs! Take care of you too at this difficult time.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Jessica, you did the brave thing to act and then to write. What a painful story, yet so often repeated.
    I ache. I ache for you and for so many others who work hard to celebrate and be celebrated on this day.
    I also ache as one (like many) who has had a door closed in my face, though I have worked, tried, reached, loved, waited, extended grace until I haven’t known what else to do. That is another ache. Equally valid; no more difficult than yours.
    Thank you for articulating your story. Happy Mother’s Day!

    Liked by 1 person

    • What a big heart you have to share your own ache. An ache included in all of the “what if’s” but one I did not clearly state. Thank you for putting it down here. It is an important piece and one I that weighs heavily on me as well. I’m grateful to you for writing it down. I feel privileged to read it. And thank you for honoring my story and bearing witness. I’ll be holding you in my heart on Mother’s Day.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. This is such a brave post because I know you speak for many people who don’t have mothers who deserve their honor. I would guess that Mother’s Day is awkward (at the very least) for most people and downright painful for the rest. There’s always so much going on under the surface of a family. I hope you will celebrate yourself on Sunday and bask in the love you have cultivated in your life. That will be my goal too.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thanks, Karen. You are so right — “There is always so much going on under the surface of a family.” That sentence really resonates with me. I’d take it even deeper and say that there’s always so much going on under the surface of each individual. I know we share this sentiment for sure. It’s why we write. Or one of the reasons …

    I think celebrating ourselves is a great goal. Once I finally wrote my piece I realized I could actually focus more on myself and my family. I felt like I could breathe. I’ll be joining you in celebrating. XO


  5. I read this after. I read this after wanting to scream, howl, hit, bite and enduring that day. I was small. I was hurting. Still picking up the pieces…I am emotionally hung over. I am grateful thank you for getting it…it sucks.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m so sorry you suffered through the day. I hear you. I see you. I do. I’m glad you found some comfort here although my greatest wish would be that you didn’t have to feel the pain at all. Thank you for posting and commenting. Take good care of yourself as you move forward. Much love to you.


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