I woke up on Mother’s Day at 6:45 a.m. to a symphony of sneezes well within my personal spray zone. My son went in for a kiss with a messy cold and completely covered me with boogies. Not to be outdone, my other kid chimed in with an ominous “I don’t feel good” an hour later. He threw up twice. This was all before 8:00 a.m.
Happy Mother’s Day to me!
My poor fiancé. He had done everything right: he braved several stores with two boisterous boys to handpick heartfelt gifts, served as referee on a joint art project, and encouraged them to express their feelings with homemade cards. (Did you know I am an awesome mom because I am “always at the grocery store?” F*ck yeah I am.) All this plus a trip to my happy place — Ogunquit, Maine —was planned.
Instead of taking our cliffside walk, combing the beach for seashells and indulging on our favorite contraband cheat food — ooey, gooey, frosting-filled donuts that adhere to my thighs on sight alone — we were stuck home. We divided and conquered — one kid to each parent — and snuck in some quick hugs in-between cold compresses, snot rags, and juice runs.
At about 3:00 p.m., I started getting antsy. My son and I were reminiscing about my mom, who we lost two years ago, and decided we needed to do something to honor her at that moment. Armed with resolve and plenty of tissues (for his nose and for my eyes), we went to the store to buy a Mother’s Day balloon to send her in Heaven. Everything available was ridiculously marked up — really, there’s nothing like capitalizing on Hallmark holidays … and they were enormous. I am talking $11.99 monstrosities that would knock a flock of seagulls on their asses on the way up. After convincing my son that bigger isn’t better (when it comes to balloons at least) and making the teenage girl behind the counter dig around for a reasonably sized balloon adorned with butterflies (the symbol of my mom’s life), we set off to do some good. To tend to the gaping holes in our hearts. To reach the woman we long for, the one we adore, the one who left us too soon … some way, somehow.
To be honest, I was silently patting myself on the back at that point. I successfully averted what could have been an epic meltdown about balloon size at the store. I showed some serious mom prowess right there, reasoning with a sometimes unreasonable 5-year-old. He was cool and collected when I put the old kibosh on not one, but two balloons he wanted to send to his beloved Mimi. He didn’t make me look like a chump on Mother’s Day — yes! — so I decided to reward him with a trip to the Starbucks drive thru. He’s my mini-me in some ways and loves the passionfruit tea lemonade.
We placed our order and started inching our way through the drive thru lane. All of a sudden, a car whizzes by on the passenger’s side of my car, trying to make a single lane a double, and hit me. Shocked (and pissed), I leapt out of the car to assess the damage. In my haste, the balloon escaped through the door. It did a little seductive dance on top of the roof, tormenting me, encouraging me to grab for it. There I was, jumping repeatedly for the balloon, yelling, “Oh my G-d! No! It can’t go up in the sky! We aren’t ready yet!” It was quite the scene. Even the guy who hit me tried to reach the elusive balloon string … but it flew to freedom. My son was visibly upset as he watched the balloon disappear into the clouds.
All of the emotions I had compartmentalized that day —the pain of being a motherless mother, of raising my child without his grandmother — came pouring out with that devastating balloon blow. I lost my mom and couldn’t even hold on to the freaking balloon I wanted to release in her memory. I had to stifle tears as I exchanged information with the guy so I didn’t look crazy for losing it over a scratched bumper and a balloon. But inside, I was back in the Intensive Care Unit on the night my mom died, helplessly watching her slip away.
My face must have been more telling than I thought it was because a woman came running up to me with a Starbucks gift card. She put two and two together when she saw my reaction to the balloon. “It was for your mom who died.” she said. “I am so sorry.” Her kindness made me bawl hot, cleansing tears … and inspired my son to shower me with love. I needed his affection, snot be damned. I don’t think the parking lot at Starbucks will ever be the same.
After I collected myself, we went back to the store for another balloon and made our way to the lake I grew up near to release it. My son wanted to be responsible. I stressed to him the importance of holding on tight. Clinging to the balloon, he made his way to the edge of the water. I grabbed my iPhone to take a photo. He looked so peaceful standing there.
Unbelievably, the balloon wiggled its way off the string and flew into a maze of bare branches. My son and I ran after it, Chariots of Fire style, and stood under the tree, saying things we wanted to say to mom/grammy Mimi. We talked fast … and then slower when we realized the balloon stayed in stunned silence, enveloped in the intricacy of the branches. “I miss you babysitting for me, Mimi,” my son cried, gripping the balloon string with white knuckles. “I miss everything about you, mommy, every minute of every day,” I added. We went on and on, unleashing our emotions to a captive “I love you Mom” balloon.
When we finished, as if on cue, the wind gently guided the balloon towards the sun. And, together, we watched it soar.