“There is a difference between a ritual and a spectacle: ritual honors the truth of people’s lives, while spectacle honors the falsehood.” (Toni Morrison)
“That is cute of your father — that stuff is just sweet and it is so old school and doesn’t happen anymore….” (BFF)
I called my Mom yesterday for the Happy Mother’s Day thing. We chatted about all the familiar stuff: the balls that come over their backyard wall and the wretched little children who climb over to retrieve them, Bin Laden, Obama, dental work, dusting (or rather NOT dusting…ha!).
And she told me how on Saturday, my Dad went to the “99-Cent Store” as is his usual custom every other weekend, to buy groceries. When he got home, he unloaded the car, as he always does, and brought all the bags of cans and so forth into the house first.
But in a departure from the ordinary, on his last trip out he came back inside with two artificial bouquets of red roses which he presented to my Mom for Mother’s Day.
My Mom doesn’t mind the artificial part of the flowers…she likes the thought behind the gift.
She puts them in a vase and displays them along with past flowery gifts that proudly collect dust and never die.
I must admit, I felt a tad farklempt. Such a gesture as my Dad’s is so very “Old School” — loving in its simplicity and symbolism of affection; gentlemanly and sweet.
My parents have been married for 58 years (59 in September), so they must be doing something right.
And fake flowers are just as good, if not better, than a fancy dinner out or an expensive piece of jewelry, because my Dad KNOWS that my Mom would not want those things.
BFF told me that her next-door neighbor “…made breakfast for his mother — this huge spread of chorizo and eggs and bagels and cream cheese and Greek yogurt and strawberries…all the same things that everyone lays out. And I asked him, ‘Is that your mother’s favorite breakfast…?’ He had no idea. It was just the act of ‘look how much and how big and there are a ton of leftovers.’ And she is a 70-year-old woman who eats the amount of a bird….
“So I laugh because it is done for him to brag about and not at all done for his mother…. His parents were gone in about an hour too….”
A spread like that could indeed be considered “spectacle.” Where was Mom in all that? Maybe she might have preferred an old-fashioned dinner out at a coffee shop where she could have ordered a grilled-cheese or whatever. But instead she got Greek yogurt and chorizo (a rather odd combination IMO) that was only worth an hour of her time.
And of course, “judge not” and all that…Neighbor Guy most likely meant well and God knows that a lot of us would do just about anything to gain our mother’s approval.
But the “ritual” is from the heart; the “spectacle” is conspicuous consumption.
And what it all really comes down to is the intention or motivation behind the “spectacle” or the “ritual.”
Personally, I would prefer simplicity. My three cats did not bring me breakfast in bed yesterday (partly because they are lucky enough not to know about artificially-created human holidays) but all the same, the year-round purrs and cuddling and company are all good enough for me.
If I had been with someone for nearly 60 years I would take great comfort in a surprise gift of 99-cent fake flowers. They would symbolize a love that has survived the ups and downs of all that is crazy about life on this planet.
And they would stand for a love between two people that is grounded in trust and truth.
©May 2011 by Phyllis J. Hanniver