When Mother’s Day Goes From Schmaltzy to Sad

What Women Really Think
May 8 2009 5:16 PM

When Mother’s Day Goes From Schmaltzy to Sad

Bonnie , Jess, I confess I haven't been able to read Jess's piece about talking to her mom yet; I started to, and it brought tears to my eyes. Like Jess, I used to talk to my mom all the time, about matters large and small. (Should I refrigerate peanut butter? Should I take that job? Who are you voting for?) But my mother passed away on Christmas Day of 2008. And so I can't talk to her. I didn't think that Mother's Day was going to hit home at all, because my mother, a wry pragmatist, considered it a fake holiday. In her view, it was more about Hallmark than her. Still, we often gave her flowers, or, in the past few years, when she was sick, made a point of seeing her. One reason that Mother's Day is hard, though, is that I see all these other daughters talking about their mothers. The hardest part about losing her are times when I realize that the unique mother-daughter relationship is one I will never again experience-not as a daughter, at least. And frankly, the idea of having children without her around to impart her wisdom makes the whole enterprise seem a lot less appealing. I'm sure that will change over time, but the pain won't. In fact, there's a moving piece about this over on the New York Times parenting blog . So this Mother's Day, I will be thinking most about daughters and sons; the motherless ones.

Meghan O'Rourke is Slate's culture critic and an advisory editor. She was previously an editor at The New Yorker. The Long Goodbye, a memoir about her mother's death, is now out in paperback.