First, the laughter – an editorial cartoon – then the tears – from the latest column by syndicated columnist Connie Schultz.

Mother's Day 2011

Hey, Mom: When Will I Stop Missing You?

By CONNIE SCHULTZ

If I could snap my fingers and travel back in time, I’d be 11-year-old me standing on third base in the field behind our house, cupping my hands around my mouth and yelling for Mom to hit me home.

My mother, like most mothers, was all about coming through for her kids.

Evening games of softball in our neighborhood, where she was usually the only parent who played, were no exception. Whenever she was at bat, she’d stand poised over that cardboard triangle itching for release from the pent-up frustrations of a young mother’s life.

She was only 4 feet 11 inches tall, and between her pedal pushers and sky-high beehive, pitchers had a heck of time finding her strike zone. She’d dance at the plate as if her feet were on fire, goading them for the perfect pitch. When it came, she gave it her all.

Lord, how she loved to smack that ball.

Just once, I’d like to see my mom digging in at the plate again. I want to be that scrappy kid who thought her mother was going to live forever.

I’m as common as they come: I miss my mom on Mother’s Day.

Every year since my mother died, I tell myself I will not surrender to the manufactured drama of greeting card profiteering. And yet, here I am, 12 years later, feeling beaten up after the two-week stream of email offers from every company imaginable warning me not to forget Mom’s special day.

I could Make Mom Happy at my local drugstore or halfway round the world – and earn valuable Delta miles, too. And, boy, could I surprise her these days.

My mother always insisted that our every gift was just what she wanted, but I laugh at the thought of her swooning over this new wave of suggested gifts.

How does one’s mother work up a rave over wheat grass juice? What on earth would she do with a Pilates phone app? Could she keep a straight face after unwrapping her Flameless Candles as featured on FOX News?

On Facebook, many people changed their profile pictures last week to pay tribute to their mothers. Sweet idea.

As the week wore on, and tempers flared over Osama bin Laden’s demise, it got a little dicey. An increasing number of Facebook posts featured the smiling faces of elderly or long ago mothers paired with status updates full of swear words and travel advisories for those headed straight to hell.

Last Friday, I replaced my profile picture with a photo of my mom taken from the late ’60s. In it, she’s surrounded by her four children. She’s wearing pedal pushers, of course, and sunglasses big as salad plates. We look ready to bolt from prison, but she looks perfectly calm, as if having four children by the age of 26 was always the plan.

To my knowledge, there are no pictures of Mom playing softball. That would makes sense, since my father was the family photographer, and she typically played only when he worked overtime. I can imagine how she would have looked, though, had Dad showed up with a camera. No matter what she was doing, she’d drop everything to look at him and smile.

My mother never stopped loving the game. In the last summer of her life, she came for an extended visit to my home, and she insisted on going to her granddaughter’s softball games.

The evenings where hot and sticky, and posed a challenge for my mother, who had a lung disease. As usual, she figured out a solution. We bought her a handheld, battery-operated fan with an attached spritzer. She was good to go.

Every time my daughter stood on the softball field and so much as brushed at her bangs, my mother would coo.

“Look at her,” she’d say, over and over. “Cutest thing.”

In the last inning of the game, my mom narrowed her eyes and focused as the shortest girl on the team stepped up to bat. She hit the ball hard and long.

My mother closed her eyes and smiled as her fan whorled.

“I used to love to hit that ball,” she said, lifting her face to the sky. “You kids would always cheer. Every time.”

Connie Schultz is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for the Plain Dealer in Cleveland and an essayist for Parade magazine. Her syndicated column appears each Friday on the Missoulian’s Opinion page.