Longtime Indy contributor Cynthia Ward has a beautiful essay about her daughter this week titled “Looking Glass.” To couple with that, we asked her to share a bit about Mother’s Day.


I am remembering Greg Winterbottom, a dear friend who was a paraplegic and advocate for disabled people. I used to help him look for Mother’s Day cards that weren’t so mushy as to be insincere and didn’t use the word “love,” for he was quite certain, and with good reason, that love was not what he felt for his mother. We had a few good laughs about the arbitrariness of Mother’s Day, and without a trace of self-pity, he piloted his wheelchair through a tricky world and found among his friends all the nurturance and understanding he would ever need. This memory has reminded me that we must mother one another.


I remain ambivalent about Mother’s Day, as I am about most greeting-card holidays that tell me what I am supposed to feel. There’s something annoyingly condescending about it. I dislike commercially motivated customs and declarations that celebrate relationships that are personal and individual. My relationship with my mother was complicated, but I grew to love her dearly over time, and I hope I also showed her that I did, but that’s between her and me. (And it’s a shock to realize that the dialog has not ended with her death.) In any case, love comes easier for me now, as I navigate my seventies — I appreciate how hard life can be, and I’ve become more respectful and forgiving. Meanwhile, my daughter, who lives very far away, is fully immersed in her own busy life and not inclined to indulge me with Mother’s Day sentiment. She long ago let me know that she loves and respects me, and it’s best not to expect ritualistic reinforcement.

I also know that Mother’s Day can be an alienating or painful day for those whose mothers are recently departed or more achingly than ever gone, or those whose mothers were not up to the task, or those who yearned to be mothers themselves and never got the chance or who grieve for a child who is gone, and perhaps even for those who simply didn’t want to be mothers and chose a different life. I’d say embrace the day if it’s fun, and if you’re lucky enough to still have an actual mom or mother figure to call, why not?

One day this became very clear to me: I am not a motherless child, but instead, I hope, a mothering one, not an orphan, but a daughter of the earth, connecting to other souls on our way to being stardust. Maybe my idea of mothering is just another word for kindness, but I have come to understand that we must nurture one another, here and now. That’s what friends do when they sense the need. Life isn’t easy for anyone, but we have so much power to steady one another! So, Mother’s Day provides a kind of nudge, and I suppose that’s not so bad.


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