Mothers travel the landscape of life starting as the centerpiece of our lives to becoming the butts of jokes (in the history of the world were there ever father-in-law jokes?), to becoming a final way station on the road to endless nothingness: a place where grown children make obligatory visits with squalling broods of grandchildren in tow on occasional Sunday afternoons (unless it is good golf weather). As a young medical student, working in an innercity hospital, I was surprised at the number of women in labor, who cried out for their mothers in an assortment of languages – never a husband, lover or father. And yet, from Kipling (If I were damned of body and soul/ I know whose prayers would make me whole /) to Georgie Jessel (God’s gift from above/ A real unselfish love/), to the drivel contained in a million Mother’s Day cards, whose purchase sadly, is usually nothing more than an inexpensive assuage of guilt where she is praised and raised to sanitized sainthood.
The law protects children from unfit mothers, but short of that they can come in all sizes and temperaments, good and bad and even some who are lousy cooks.
Although, it may be true that the ghost of every judge’s mother walks the courthouse corridors, the law, in its “majesty equality” treats her as an equal with fathers in matters of custody. Unfortunately, equality is often a step downward. Obviously, there are mothers whose temperament, sanity or judgment would render them unfit to mother a Pekinese. But there are also fathers who use the threat of a custody fight as a kind of Vergeltung Waffen to terrorize a mother into not pursuing the alimony, maintenance or child support to which she would be otherwise entitled.
Until the scientists are able to replace the years of a mother’s life devoted to her children in the same currency of time, money itself is a cheap and paltry currency…particularly if a man has a lot of it.
Researchers, in their quest to reduce things to scientific equations believe that the love between mother and child is the result of a complex cocktail of hormones, Oxytocin, Prolactin, endorphins, Pregnenolone and assorted chemical relatives. But that still does not explain those birthing women in the hospital crying for their mothers, nor a mother’s toil year after year, nor the self-sacrifices, nor the doing withouts. So, until these things can be explained away by chemistry, I’ll tell my kids to keep buying Mother’s Day cards, trite and awful of expression they may be.