Monday, May 9, 2011

Your Mother

So did you tell your mom how much you love her yesterday, and thank her for all that she has done for you? I hope so. Because if you didn't, you're a lout, and you should feel terrible about yourself. Unless of course your mom is this woman, or maybe this one. If that's the case maybe cutting ties is the way to go. And hey, there's always Father's Day to look forward to in about a month.

Did you know that Anna Jarvis is the officially recognized founder of Mother's Day? Yep, she petitioned the U.S. government to make Mother's Day an official observance, and Woodrow Wilson signed it into law in 1914. Her inspiration came from the "Mother's Day Proclamation" by Julia Ward Howe (who wrote the lyrics to "The Battle Hymn of the Republic"), and her own mother who organized Mothers' Day Work Clubs. The former was intended to heal the losses of the recent American Civil War - shared by so many mothers North and South - and to promote political activity by women. The latter attempted to improve health and sanitary conditions which led to the unnecessary deaths of so many infants and their mothers in childbirth. Pretty heady causes for the day.

Jarvis had a more basic idea in mind for her holiday, however. A graduate of what is now Mary Baldwin College in Staunton, VA (coincidentally the birthplace of Woodrow Wilson), she wanted the day to be a celebration of your mother, "the most important mother in the world," as she put it. She therefore trademarked the phrases "Mother's Day" (note the singular possessive) and "The Second Sunday in May". It was her intention that this day be spent with your mother, thanking her for making your life possible. Note that there was no mention of brunches, candy, cards, or even flowers. Simply a child's love and gratitude for his or her mom. But in what should be a surprise to no one, the day quickly became a "consumer event", even as war was once again raging.

By 1920, Jarvis was completely disillusioned by what she had created, and spent the rest of her life - and all of her money - railing against it. In a cruel bit of irony, she died childless (and broke) in a sanitarium in West Chester, PA. Not exactly a Hallmark moment, eh?

So this is where I would normally tell you to go rent a timeshare in some great location, and take mom along with you. But in light of the story I just shared, that seems somehow inappropriate. So if the true meaning of yesterday's holiday got lost in the shuffle of wrapping paper and gift boxes - or maybe just to make your mom's day - why don't you call or visit her again today, just to say thanks and tell her that you love her.

And fear not, I have thoroughly researched Father's Day and it carries no such baggage. It was purely a "me too" copy-cat creation that was met with laughter and parody during its first few decades, and nearly disappeared altogether. In fact, it was the work of the Associated Men's Wear Retailers who breathed new life into the observance in the 1930's, and it was not even a permanent national holiday until the Nixon administration. So by all means, let the neckties, golf balls, gag-gifts, and grilling accoutrement flow. Don't get me wrong, fathers play an extremely important and necessary role in all of our lives. But ostensibly, so does the Vice President of the United States.

1 comment:

  1. As usual, you hit the nail smack on its noggin, Seymour!