by Peggy and George Goldtrap
Mother’s Day, the opportunity retailers relish as they encourage all consumers to say Thank You to our mothers with more than words of gratitude, but with expensive gifts.
The modern holiday of Mother’s Day was first celebrated in 1908, when Anna Jarvis held a memorial for her mother at St Andrew’s Methodist Church in Grafton, West Virginia.
In 1914, Woodrow Wilson signed a proclamation designating the second Sunday in May, as Mother’s Day, a national holiday to honor mothers.
It’s doubtful that the Anna Jarvis had any idea that her tribute day would become a sales success. Eating out on Mother’s Day is a tradition, if you have reservations. ‘Give mom a day off from the kitchen.’ That quaint slogan appealed to another era because today’s moms drop by the fast food take-out line before heading home from a stressful day at work. The Betty Crocker America doesn’t exist for the most part except in Norman Rockwell paintings. Even the Silver Set prefers eating out on holidays and then, maybe, having the family over for desserts.
‘It’s the thought that counts.’ ‘That’s true,’ said one young mom, ‘but I’d think more of my children if they gave me diamonds.’ Happy families plus happy times equal happy commercial revenues.
There is such pressure to be loving at holidays that it’s an exhausting turn-off. Picking out a card with the perfect message is stressful. Deciding whose house has the most space for a family gathering. Counting visitors at the nursing home; not too many at any one time. Dressing up the grandchildren and greats in the outfit that defines their personalities is mandatory for the group picture. ‘Is everyone smiling?’ ‘Stop fighting long enough to get a picture!’ ‘It’s not going to kill you to look pleasant.’ Hallmark moments trigger migraines.
What about the people who don’t have mothers to celebrate? We’re not talking about those whose parents are deceased, but those whose mothers abandoned them, abused them, lied to them, refused to ack-nowledge their existence, inflicted pain, and scarred the soul.
Not every woman is capable of bearing a child, nor becoming a nurturing mother to their own. There are women who are incapable of love or affection, who are Ice Queens around their children, who avoid touch like the plague. There are mothers who’ve succumbed to addictions, who live in shadows, loving the drug more than the child. There are women who choose to pursue their own dreams at the loss of their children. There are women who are serial mothers, establishing large families, scattered among households without a common father. There are mothers who live in such deep poverty that they consider it compassionate to relinquish parental rights to charitable groups or individuals. There are mothers whose minds conjure confusion, delusions, dark journeys.
Mother’s Day can be a landmine for the walking wounded. What gift do you give to a woman whose rage threatened your life? What card says: ‘I’m safe if I’m not around you.’ What banner says: ‘I can’t trust you?’ Where does a person shop when their memories of mom bring screams and their psyche is pot-holed with pain?
Chances are, with all of us, someone, somewhere on the road of life has been our bright angel, our guide. If we’re blessed it was our original mother who tenderly welcomed us into the world. It might have been a neighbor, a teacher, a friend’s aunt, a Scout leader, a co-worker, a book, a pet, a therapist, the Bible. Somewhere, along the way, something or someone stepped in and held our hand when it was shaking. Someone saw the hurt in our eyes and gave us a hug. Someone saw the hunger in our souls and fed it.
Who was the ‘mother’ in your life? Who picked you up when you had no strength to rise? That’s who deserves your ‘Thank You’ and that’s who needs to be in your thoughts this Mother’s Day. Find them, call them, be with them, in person if possible, tell them how much they meant to you. For many, your ‘thank you’ will be a surprise; they’ll hesitate to accept that what they did was exceptional. No matter, shout it to them: ‘You saved my life.’ ‘You spoke, comforted, fed, encouraged, showed up at my ballgames, straightened me out with a ‘good talk,’ sewed my button on, remembered my birthday; you healed the holes in my heart.
They need to hear how valuable their life was for you and that you were shaped by their kindness. They need to know your gratitude is everlasting. They need to hear your promise to carry their blessing forward.
Cards should be made for the mothers who birthed us and for the other mothers who guided us. The gratitude we feel lasts year round, but is brought to the forefront of attention on a designated day thanks to Anna Jarvis’ West Virginia mom.
We are the sum total of all of our experiences. Whether we had the warm bathing of a birth mother or the influence and shared wisdom of multiple mothers, they ALL deserve our gratitude and recognition.
Happy ‘Myriad of Mother’s’ Day.