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.
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.