I grew up seeing a solitary fall ritual, familiar to me as the falling leaves, my mother on her hands and knees planting flower bulbs for spring.
I watched her in the same way that, as a child, she had watched her mother bury tulip bulbs in the hardening earth in a hopeful continuum that transcends the ordinariness of the gesture.
When Rana Plaza in Bangladesh collapsed, trapping thousands of men and women, the world’s focus was rightly on the humanitarian plight of exploited workers in emerging nations. Among those trapped and awaiting rescue was at least one pregnant woman — working 16-hour days, seven days a week for $42 a month — who gave birth to a baby boy amid the suffering and in defiance of the opposition of an unkind world. Mother and child were rescued. The baby was crying, still attached to his mother by the umbilical cord.
Every day babies are born in floods and in fire, in prisons, in bombed-out basements in war-torn cities to malnourished women without benefit of doctor or nurse or midwife or doula, to women in hopeless situations unable to succumb to the luxury of abandoned hope.
The dogma to which we cling concerning motherhood and the distinctions we make between mothers who work and mothers who stay home, between mothers whose figures bounce back within seconds of childbirth and mothers for whom losing the baby weight is the least of their worries, between young mothers and older mothers, married mothers and unmarried mothers — such conversations have their place.
We are human and so we do what human beings do — talk about one another, sometimes admiringly, sometimes disparagingly.
Mother’s Day is this Sunday. Many of us have good mothers. Many of us don’t. Many of us want to become mothers. Many of us do not. Others fear making the choice. Others suffer the cruelty of Mother Nature which has made the choice for them.
Whether you send your mother flowers on Sunday, or you don’t, or whether grief for a mother lost has you in its grip, let us praise the women who get their hands dirty and dig the holes and plant the bulbs in the expectation that when the ground softens and the cold winds recede there will be flowers.
Love you mum.