Freaky Mother’s Day Card

Making my mother happy isn’t that hard to do. I’m going to amend that. Making my mother happy on Mother’s Day isn’t hard to do. We’re not a greeting card kind of family. In fact, when I was a kid, both my parents declared Mother’s and Father’s Day were invented by card companies, and we didn’t celebrate. Looking back, this probably was a budget motivated decision. Now that I’m out of the house, cards feel like they make more sense. I’ve started sending them Valentine’s Day cards, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day cards. Unfortunately, I made the mistake of thinking that they would continue to have non-traditional attitudes once I started sending them cards.

This year I departed from my vintage, cutesy, hand-made $7 letterpress cards and sent my mom a postcard. It was a postcard of a Degas painting I saw at the Getty. This Degas painting is so odd and disturbing that it’s ridiculous. There you are in the impressionist wing, surrounded by floral paintings, and there’s this picture of a woman awkwardly falling from a bath. No one has ever gotten out of a bath that way. If they have, it’s because something’s deeply wrong, physically and emotionally. Her butt is in the air and her leg is up like a dog peeing. Then eerily, a partially unseen woman dries her hair. It’s only explainable as a scene from a mental asylum. So, naturally I thought it would make the perfect Mother’s Day card. I thought it was hilarious, and I was certain my mother would too. Afterall, she’s the woman who bought me a cross-stitch of the World Trade Center. It was made before 9/11 and is probably the world’s only ominous cross-stitch.

My Mother on Mother's Day as Photographed by My Father

My Mother on Mother’s Day as Photographed by My Father

I sent the card two days in advance, but it still didn’t get there in time. I got a text from my dad reminding me it was Mother’s Day, which was very upsetting coming from such a non-believer. I called to talk to my mom and apologize for the late card and discovered she had a terrible cold. Light was also hurting her eyes, so she was wearing sunglasses inside. We chatted, and I was positive that once she received my card, things would really turn around for her.

I got an email the next day. She put up a brave front. She said she did like seeing my handwriting. But she also said:

“Looks like the mommy figure is involved in some sort of sadistic manipulation of the red head nude. Im your mom right, so I can tell you that this is too freaky for a mother’s day card. The possible narratives are unpleasant to ponder. I want a different one next year.”

I had never thought of the picture as a mother and daughter. But since the nude figure has red hair, she naturally thought of me (all red heads are the same, remember). Also, it was a mother’s day card… I called to talk to her that night. She told me that on top of it all, she hates Degas. He was an anti-semite and sexist. I should have known she would feel this way. She’s a painter for heavens sake! She’s not going to look at it and go for the joke. I couldn’t have found a worse card.

I blame this on her because she didn’t raise me in a card accepting home. No, it’s entirely my fault. I missed the spirit of Mother’s Day entirely and sent what amused me, not her. We had a good laugh about it, and since she’s my mother, it’s ok. Lesson learned, and now she’s letting me write about it on the internet. In a way, a very unfortunate way, the card made me honestly recognize her. And, I bought it at the Getty not Hallmark.

After the Bath


  1. Brett S says:

    Our Mothers would get along, I think.

  2. Mary says:

    Mosaic tiling workshop idea is so-o-o-o not your mother. Not even for a lame joke. And most likely, not even for a funny joke. And when a painting of a red headed mistress ( as in “mistress of the house”) and her maid assisting said mistress with her bath, gets confused as a mother/daughter pose by a mother with a very red headed daughter, I suggest that you don’t get confused by the red hair, nor, by your mother’s profession as an artist. And don’t apologize for your taste or humor. Neither of them were poor in judgment. Mother’s Day is a mix of sweet and bitter because every mother has/had a mother and there’s the rub! Your mother was spending Mother’s Day flat on her back, feeling like shit, wearing sunglasses in bed most likely because your dad was slowly torturing her with the flash of his camera, while the weight of the cat was putting her feet to sleep, and worst of all, her one and only baby was hundreds of miles away, not to be seen on this day of all days. So, she got a cranky and expressed some little dissatisfaction about the mysogynistic (sp?) sadistic precursor of Vichy- soises France via Monsieur Degas!! Under the circumstances, what mother wouldn’t do the same? Mother. Mother. Mother. Non- traditional, non-commercial, non card-accepting, mother. Those terms don’t make any difference because once a mother, it makes no difference how many other holidays and celebrations you may have designated as commercial exercises in consumerism, that sacred ground of motherhood must be supported by offspring with a display of pure affection, either by a card or a meal, by which they demonstrate their eternal love and affection for……

    I have to stop here. It would be unfair to put words in your mouth. We do that for the boys in the family. The girls, well, the girls can figure it out on their own. If you still need help for next year, forget the Getty. Seek enlightenment at Hallmark.

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