That's the case with columnist Mark Millhone over at Men's Health magazine, whose essay about his crazy mother -- no, she's really crazy -- appears in this month's issue. He writes, in part:
"Why are there no Mother's Day cards for those of us with dysfunctional families? Cards that say something like 'Roses are red, violets are blue. You always hurt the ones you love, but don't worry, I won't sue! Happy Mother's Day!' Or 'World's best mom! (When she's not drinking!)'
"My mother didn't drink, but she made up for it in other ways. Whiplash-inducing mood swings. Screaming fits so loud that the neighbors would call the police. She had a particular gift for making scenes in restaurants -- my two older brothers and I always knew we could count on being treated to dinner and a show."
Not all moms are worth sung praises, I suppose. And something deep down in the heart of the heart of a storyteller's heart -- perhaps a twisted or underdeveloped nodule handicapped by some imperfect mother -- makes him want to speak it. This nodule, if healthy and robust, renders a mother's flaws invisible, but if it's sickly ... well, Millhone knows.
And Millhone knows his memory isn't all bad, too. He has concluded that his mother -- probably insane but not criminal -- was still a great presence in his life:
"Almost 2 years later, I still find her death imponderable, disorienting. It's as if someone rearranged the furniture while I slept. How ironic that after spending most of my adult life avoiding my mother, trying to reduce her to a punch line, she looms so large now that she's gone. She's like a song I can't get out of my head, a phantom limb, something in the air. I deeply regret all the years wasted in anger, hating her for not being the mom all those Hallmark cards were written for: the milk-and-cookies-waiting-for-you-after-school mom, the kiss-it-and-make-it-all-better, world's greatest mom. Only now does it even occur to me to wonder if I was the son she wanted me to be."
Ah. maybe that's the reason we celebrate Mother's Day: It's an annual chance at redemption, to prove we are the children that our mother's hoped we'd be.