May 10, 2008

COMMENTARY: Finals Week Starts with Mother's Day

Walking on the Ledge:
Stressed students seesaw between family and finals
Ever since PBS began its Poetry Everywhere campaign, one piece always stops me in my tracks whenever it airs -- Billy Collins' "The Lanyard."

It's hard to listen to and watch because it highlights one of the biggest problems college students face as we finish final projects and prepare for finals week -- Mother's Day.

How do we make time for mom when every second must be devoted to the most important week of the semester? We stress because we've probably missed birthdays, weddings, and other holidays because of our commitment to school. And mom, who probably gives us a little bit of a hard time when we do miss those events, is most probably one of our biggest supporters while we're in school. For that reason, it just doesn't feel right to push her day aside.

Others, like me, find the day difficult because our mothers have passed. I usually try to stay home that day save for one trip -- to the cemetery. I don't want to see families having dinner. I don't want to drive past a park to see them picnic. I don't want to see children buying presents at Target or a cake and a card at the grocery store.When it's time, I try to find a small out of the way flower shop where I can swoop in, buy a dozen roses without engaging in small talk with the cashier. I hate to see the look on their faces when they realize their roses are going to a grave instead of a family dinner.

Once at the cemetery I see other orphans paying respect. Some have been making the trip for years. And for others, this is their first time. That's when it's especially hard to visit mom. Everyone cries but those uncontrolled and visceral sobs transport everyone to our first Mother's Day at the cemetery.

After sitting in my car trying to pull myself together so that I can drive home, I leave the cemetery. I'll be back on my birthday and on hers.

At some point, I light a candle for her and thank her for my life. But maybe this year, we can follow Collins' lead and present mom with our own lanyards

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