My two sons and I grabbed my niece and nephew, my bike taxi (I was a bike taxi driver at the time), a birthday cake and some drinks, and set out for a wild ride around downtown Salt Lake City. It was Mother’s Day and my son’s eighth birthday, and we planned to celebrate it BIG.
We rode around Gateway Mall, Temple Square, haunted buildings, and stopped for cake at a terrace surrounded by waterfalls in Gallivan Plaza. The boys fought while singing happy birthday to the new eight year-old (captured on video, of course) but the birthday boy blew out the candles with a smile.
After dessert we decided to grab some real food for lunch, and headed to my favorite family-run pizza joint, Sicilia Pizza Kitchen. I often frequented Sicilia’s at three in the morning with my coworkers when we finished riding bike taxis for the night. They closed at 3:00a.m. and would let us have the left over pizza for free or close to it. We would sit on the cement planter out front and tell stories about the crazy passengers we had that night.
The man that usually ran the counter at night, a casual acquaintance, was working that day and set us up at a nice table in the shade where we could watch people walking down the sidewalk. He took our order, and I told him to make it good because we were celebrating a birthday.
“Are these your kids?” he asked.
“These two are, and this is my niece and nephew,” I replied.
“You are alone on Mother’s Day,” he said as he walked away with the corners of his mouth slightly turned down.
My face stung, and I felt ashamed and embarrassed. This was a new feeling for me—facing the world alone. I had been separated from my husband and living on my own for just a few months, and I had never lived on my own before. I had gotten married before my twentieth birthday. Even though four amazing people surrounded me, I was still thought of as being alone because they were children.
Eating at a restaurant with my young children on Mother’s Day without a man felt worse than treating myself to a dinner at a fancy restaurant on Valentine’s Day.
I felt awkward paying the bill, almost guilty, like I had done something wrong because I picked up my own tab on Mother’s Day. I thought of commercials for jewelry, vacuums, cars, and spa days that often say, “treat your mom this Mother’s Day, she deserves it,” as if the mother’s that aren’t purchased lavish gifts are less deserving or appreciated.
Most of my family lives out of state, so I rarely get to see my own mom on Mother’s Day. I hope she knows how much I wish I could treat her to lunch on Mother’s Day—or a new car. I hope she knows by my actions all year how much I love and appreciate her. I love the holidays that I have been fortunate to spend surrounded by family.
I also love the holidays I spend alone. Being alone is different than being lonely. Learning the difference between solitude and isolation has been one of the hardest lessons I have faced through divorce and single parenting. A connection to others and the world around me is possible even if I am sitting alone at the table.
This Mother’s Day, we are escaping to the desert of Southern Utah. It will probably rain. It might be cold. But it will be worth it. I want to wake up, unzip my tent, stick my toes in red sand, stoke a fire with the boys, and savor a mug of steaming thick, dark coffee. In the desert, we all face solitude. It commands it. This year, I just so happen to have a grown up’s hand to hold.
Much love to all mothers, and all the fathers acting as both a mother and a father this Mother’s Day!