The Broadway musical “Dear Evan Hansen” opens with the perfect song for describing motherhood — “Anybody Have a Map?” — and these lyrics: “Anybody maybe happen to know how the hell to do this? I don’t know if you can tell, but this is me just pretending to know. So where’s the map? I need a clue. ‘Cause the scary truth is, I’m flyin’ blind.”
Aren’t all moms? From the terrifying moment we leave the hospital with a tiny human being, to the even more terrifying moment one of our babies gets behind the wheel, to the most terrifying moment when we leave them in their dorm rooms to fend for themselves. And all the terrifying moments in between and after.
We’d need a map that would dwarf the Rand McNally Atlas to navigate all those. And a matching jumbo journal to chronicle all the mistakes we made along the way.
I know there are so many other ways and people we mother, and so many more iterations of the above terrors I cannot begin to capture here.
So, just as — the best we can — we give grace to our own moms for the mistakes they made, on this Mother’s Day, let’s focus on something we did well. No, not just well, but perfectly!
Who gets to self-proclaim something they did as “perfect”? We do, moms! We’ll call it our gift to ourselves. This Mother’s Day, let us revel, nay, let us luxuriate, in one, just one, perfect mom moment.
It doesn’t have to be serious or change the courses of our children’s lives. It just has to make us smile. And pat ourselves appreciatively on the back.
Mine involves a mouse, a lacrosse stick and a jar of organic peanut butter.
It was several winters ago. The kids and I had just gotten home from school pickup and a grocery run where I had also grabbed a bundle of firewood. We came through the front door into the kitchen, and I set the wood down on the floor. A few minutes later, I heard a scream.
“A mouse, Mom, there’s a mouse!”
Both kids scrambled to the staircase landing. The mouse was running in circles, and I knew it must have come from the wood bundle since it was unfamiliar with an escape route.
It scurried into the dining room and I yelled to Jack and Maddy to close the door on one side of the room while I slammed the other.
I called a friend who always jumps in to help when we have a house problem — failed sump pump, heat not working. Instead of the expected, “I’ll be right over” response, this friend decided this was the day for me to be a grown-up homeowner.
“Tell me how to fix the sump pump instead,” I wanted to beg.
But no, I was a grownup, mostly. I could do this. As instructed, I got an empty kitchen trash bin. My son grabbed his hockey stick, and my daughter handed me a jar of peanut butter.
As they returned to higher ground, I smeared peanut butter on the top of the stick. I opened the dining room door and, screaming through clenched teeth, put the trash can inside, the opening facing up, with the hockey stick leaning against it.
“The mouse will run up the stick and drop into the bin like taking a ramp off Route 128 and hitting a pothole,” my friend had promised.
I slammed the door closed again and watched through the glass panes. The mouse didn’t even so much as sniff the bottom of the stick. I needed a plan B.
Jack brought me his lacrosse stick. I smeared the netting with more peanut butter. I laid the trash bin on its side and stuck the head of the stick right into it. The mouse ventured near and then nearer.
“C’mon, little mouse, it’s organic,” I whispered.
Soon the mouse was in the netting, and I ran in, righted the trash bin and the mouse fell to the bottom.
“Got it!” I cried triumphantly.
Then, as if competing in an Olympic track event, the mouse started jumping — jumping! — up from the bottom of the bin. As I carried it to the front door, the mouse jumped higher and higher, and I screamed louder and louder.
I finally made it to the street and dropped the bin on its side.
“Get out, little mouse!” I yelled.
But it didn’t move. I kicked the bin down the street and heard giggles behind me. Jack and Maddy were at the window, no longer afraid, and having the time of their lives laughing at my expense.
Finally, one more kick sent the mouse out of the bin onto the street.
For a moment, it stood still, quiet, as, well, a mouse, and I swear it glared at me.
“What kind of mom tricks a mouse with peanut butter and dumps it on the street?” it seemed to communicate.
The kind of mom willing to be brave and silly, and make a memory that her kids, just maybe, will appreciate one day. Meanwhile, it’s one she will appreciate herself one future Mother’s Day when she reflects that, without a map, she navigated her way perfectly through at least one mom moment.
Happy Mother’s Day, all!
Virginia Buckingham is the president of the Current’s board of directors. Her column appears weekly.
A member of the Marblehead Current’s Board of Directors, Virginia Buckingham is the former chief executive officer of the Massachusetts Port Authority, chief of staff to two Massachusetts governors, deputy editorial page editor for the Boston Herald and author of “On My Watch: A Memoir.”