Okay, that’s enough idle chit chat. It’s a holiday, so let’s get right into it.
HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY!!! (in the US, that is…)
Ah, Mother’s Day. A day to remember that you came out of someone by giving them flowers, a card, or one of those utterly hideous charm bracelets they’ve been pimping on tv that are anything but charming. Maybe you’re going to cook your mum burnt toast, like they do in all the best sitcoms. Maybe you’ve got special plans to take her to brunch because you got that coupon in the weekend paper. Maybe you’ll have a BBQ and make the burgers to go with the couple sides and dessert she’s bringing.
Perhaps you’ve read all the articles decrying the holiday as pap. “You should love your mother every day of the year, and having a special day is bullshit!” you might say as you shake your fist at another FTD guilt-marketing campaign. You decide that you aren’t going to so much as call your mother, because to do so would be giving in to the commercialism of yet another fascist/bullshit/mind control holiday and you were raised better than that. She’d understand, you reason, and I’m sure she will. After all, she raised you.
Or maybe you are like millions of others right now smacking your forehead and saying “OH SHIT IT’S MOTHER’S DAY!”. Maybe your mind is frantically adding up the monthly budget, trying to determine if you can make up for your poor planning, or if Mum is just going to have to pretend she doesn’t smell the gasoline fumes that cling to the single, wilting rose you bought from the smirking cashier when you filled up on your way over.
Traditions. How we love them!
“You okay, Bethie? You’re sounding a little cynical this morning.”
Nah, not really. Please know I’m saying this with a wry smile and a loving shake of my head at my fellow Americans. You know why? Because we all really screw up what should be easy. We eff up what’s supposed to be a calm, mellow, relaxing day. We fumble the football of basic human emotions because we’re ‘Merican and that’s how we roll.
I’m not exempt from the national ineptitude that surrounds Mother’s Day. I’m right there, too, even though I myself am a mum multiple times over. We create unnecessary pressure and forget why there’s a holiday at all.
So let’s stop with the mental calculations and put the bread down. There will be plenty of time to burn toast and buy gas station flowers in a bit. For now, let’s take a minute to learn about this holiday we all love, and have grown to love to hate.
In the United States, Mother’s Day became an official holiday because of the devotion one Anna Jarvis had to her deceased mother.
…hang on a sec. This isn’t some Norman Bates tale. Don’t write this off as a creeper story of someone who couldn’t cut the damn cord. Mama Jarvis, a woman who bore 13 kids, did something many mothers in the mid 1800s did not: she educated her girl babies right alongside the boys. In fact, she even sent the girls to college. Anna Jarvis never forgot this or the sacrifices made by Mama Jarvis to make it happen. Nor did she take for granted the social stigma Mama Jarvis faced because she dared educate her daughters. In modern times, that’s not abnormal, it’s just what you do. If you have a girl, good on ya, now send her to school so she has more options than “marrying well” when she’s an adult. But back in the day, it was an incredible sacrifice Mama Jarvis made on many fronts, not just financial.
When Mama Jarvis died, Anna decided that there should be some type of day of remembrance for mothers since hers was so amazing. She began petitioning for an official Mother’s Day, and through lots of hard work, and in the face of many rolling eyes and long-suffering sighs, I imagine, three years later she was able to have a Mother’s Day, held in her church and recognized by her town. It was small victory, but it was a start. From there, she convinced her state to make Mother’s Day a holiday, and the idea began to catch on. She launched a decade long campaign to the US government for mothers to get an official day of their own, and Woodrow Wilson finally proclaimed Mother’s Day a national holiday in 1914.
Anna Jarvis had an admirable devotion to what sounds like one wicked rad lady. However, Anna was not an original. Her thought was not unique. She wasn’t the first to decide that mums are deserving of a holiday, nor the last to champion a government for an official day. Many ancient cultures have had celebrations specifically for honoring mothers, and as it stands, nearly 70 modern nations also have a Mother’s Day of sorts.
See, Mother’s Day is NOT an American holiday. Though the specific observation being on the second Sunday in May is, the idea of the holiday stretches backwards in history, probably to the first time a caveman watched a cavewoman nursing a teething baby and thought, “Ug. Mugga muh maggi meh.” Roughly translated, “Shit. I wouldn’t do that.”
We as thinking beings have always had a reverence for mothers. It’s a universal fact that has been observed since the dawn of time. Mothering has a majesty to it that has captivated and humbled humankind. In all cultures, Mothers mean life, they mean nurturing, they are a symbol of strength and perseverance and devotion. Mothers give love and impart knowledge. They punish, they praise. They are singular entities of steadfast support through troubled waters, beacons in the sea of life.
…hang on. Lemme wipe the cliches off the screen before they drip into your coffee. *squigga squeak*
My point is, Mother’s Day is not a commercial waste. It’s not a guilt party. It’s not another excuse to grill dead animals and chug some brewskis. It’s a day to recognize a simple truth:
Mothers are awesome.
And I’m not saying this because I am one. Nor am I saying “Mothers are better than fathers.” Dads get their due as well, and one holiday does not negate another.
Also, because this is the internet, I think I must take a second to clarify that I’m speaking in broad, general terms. Of course not ALL mothers are pinnacles of magnificence. If you are reading this and getting pissed because you had a shitty mother, I’m honestly sorry for your upbringing and hope you’ve got someone to talk to so you can ease your pain. That said, I don’t want to hear about it right now. Any other day of the year, I’d be totally cool with you venting. But not today. That’s not what this is for. If this holiday is a trigger for you, then stop reading this, or anything else about mothers, and go have a lovely day at the beach. Put your internet feeding machines away. Detach from the world and make yourself healthier. Today, in this blog, I am very pro-Mother and will broker no discussion to the contrary.
We all on the same page now? Good!
Mums are rad, and they deserve a day. So why is it we make things so damn hard? Why is there stress? Why is there pressure? Why do we build it up in our heads to be a mega guilt trip?
Because we are humans, and humans have a very hard time just saying what they mean. Gifts are easier to share than emotions. I’m guilty of this, too. While I’m open and honest in writing, when it comes to personal face-to-face interactions, I suck. I always tell people that I’m much better in writing, because in person, I never, ever say what I really want to say.
Or, I jump WAY over the line and say too much.
Not really good with the shades of gray there. Heh.
And I’m not alone. That’s the one comfort. Most folks bumble their way through Mother’s Day, feeling awkward and inept. That’s why they end up having Mum make the food and do all the cleaning for the surprise BBQ they decided to “throw for her.” That’s why they’ll stand in front of the card section in Walmart in a half-panic/half-daze for an hour while they desperately try to choose a card that’s written in cursive, so it’s heartfelt, but not too cursive that it crosses the line to insipid. That’s why people get snarky and tense when folks ask about Mother’s Day plans, because they simply don’t know what to say or do to express all they feel.
I’ll make it easy for ya, folks. You want to know what your mum wants today?
She wants you to call and chat. She wants you to tell her about your life, and ask about hers. She wants a few minutes to laugh and reminisce about the time you thought her maxi pads were facecloths and got them stuck in your hair (true story, but I’ll never tell you which kid of mine that was!), and she wants to remind you of that time when she TOLD you not to climb up the tree because you’d get scared and stuck and you did it anyway, and how’d THAT turn out, huh? She wants to hear about the grandkids if she has any, or grandpuppies if she doesn’t. She wants to hear you talk about what your work plans are, or your vacation plans, or any plans you have in general.
Today the only thing your mother wants is to be your mother. She wants you to take a few minutes from the hectic, capable, life she taught you to lead to call and just be her kid for awhile.
You’re an adult. You wipe your own nose and cut your own meat. If there’s a problem at work, you handle it without a parent/boss conference. You take yourself to the doctor for checkups, even if it’s not as frequently as you should, and you somehow manage to wear clean underwear most days without mothering intervention. In so many ways you don’t need your mother anymore.
And in so many other ways, in all the truly important ones, you do.
Now stop screwing around on the internet and go tell her that.
Thus concludes a Mothering Musing for Sunday, May 10, 2015. You’re still mentally calculating to figure out if you’ve got enough for the gas station rose AND a little sack of Lindor truffles, aren’t you? That’s okay. When you give them to your mum, she’ll know exactly what you mean.