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picture perfect

When I was a kid, I had a Cabbage Patch Kids calendar. If I remember correctly, it was for 1987. The calendar had Cabbage Patch Kid dolls posed in situations appropriate for each month: a Kid in rain jacket, galoshes, and umbrella for April, two Kids exchanging valentines for February. My favorite was May’s picture: one Kid in the kitchen, flour splattered everywhere, working diligently on a Mother’s Day breakfast while around the corner his sibling tiptoed down the stairs in footie pajamas, early morning light pouring in from a window, looking cautiously (er, well, as cautiously as one can look when one’s head is made from molded vinyl) behind him in the direction of his Cabbage Patch Mom’s room.

I don’t know why I liked it so much and why it’s remained so perfectly preserved in my memory. Perhaps I was drawn to the intricate short story that the producers of the calendar created with just a couple of dolls and a miniature kitchen. Maybe something about the set reminded me of my home, with its sunny stairs and dated carpeting. Maybe I liked fantasizing about my future kids working hard on a special breakfast for me on Mother’s Day.

I can’t remember if I ever attempted any such grand gestures as the Cabbage Patch Kids for my own mom. In fact, I can’t clearly remember anything that I did for my mom, so I can only hope that at least some of those days made her feel special and loved, especially since I know most of our usual days did not, an unfortunate circumstance that continues to trouble her to this day.

My life as a mom is less tumultuous, though still difficult for different reasons, mostly due to the degree of uncertainty that we feel about life and the shape of our future. Something that I’ve been working on recently is being okay with the fact that things don’t always turn out the way that I had hoped or had pictured it, and that doesn’t necessarily spell failure.

When Mother’s Day comes around, I often indulge in fantasies inspired by those Cabbage Patch Kids and, I don’t know, Hallmark commercials or wherever the lore of picture perfect Mother’s Day mornings comes from. I sleep in and wake up to breakfast that the baby and the husband have made for me. Some nice gifts and sweet words about how swell I am.

This never, ever happens. I mean, sure, I get gifts sometimes and cards sometimes and heartfelt wishes of Happy Mother’s Day, all of which I love and cherished, but they’re never encased in a perfect, soft-focus, ready-made memory. They’re always tucked in between rushed drives to various mothers-in-law and grandmothers-in-law’s houses to wish them Happy Mother’s Day and errands that must be performed on weekends, because our need for groceries and clean clothes doesn’t keep track of holidays and whatnot.

This Mother’s Day, I write to you from the couch. The baby came down with something last night and didn’t sleep much, which means I didn’t sleep much, either. He made sure to give me my cards before collapsing in my lap so that I could thump on his back to break up the junk in his lungs. He’s resting beside me, not himself, and I’m waiting to see if he’s sick enough to warrant a call to the doctor. The husband is still asleep.

Not picture perfect. Not by a long shot. But not a failure. Just how life is sometimes.

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