As American as Mother’s Day…

 …and Apple Pie!

May 9, 2023

This is a reposting of a Classic Tuesday Newsday from May 9, 2017. It has been updated with a personal story.

As American as apple pie and motherhood… is the celebration each year of mother’s everywhere. It was on May 9, 1914, that President Woodrow Wilson
signed a proclamation which designated the second Sunday in May as the day
to show ‘love and reverence for the Mother’s of our country” who had lost
sons in war. The proclamation decreed that the American Flag be displayed on
government buildings.

Of course the intent of the original holiday has long since been hijacked by commercialization. I doubt Anna Jarvis – the woman who pushed for the
proclamation –envisioned today’s celebration.

The modern American efforts can be traced to May 9, 1905, the day Jarvis’ mother died. Distraught by her loss, Anna committed herself to continue her
mother’s work.

From the infallible Wikipedia:

“In 1868, Ann Jarvis, mother of Anna Jarvis, created a committee to establish a ‘Mother’s Friendship Day’, the purpose of which was ‘to reunite families that had been divided during the Civil War.’ (The senior)
Jarvis – who had previously organized ‘Mother’s Day Work Clubs’ to improve sanitation and health for both Union and Confederate encampments undergoing a typhoid outbreak – wanted to expand this into an annual memorial for mothers, but she died in 1905 before the celebration became popular. Her daughter, who became almost obsessed with her, would continue her mother’s efforts.”

The idea caught on, and with the passage of the proclamation in Congress, soon people were purchasing cards and flowers for Mom and taking her to dinner. Jarvis was appalled by this and spent the rest of her life fighting against what Mother’s Day had become:

“She was arrested in 1948 for disturbing the peace while protesting against the commercialization of Mother’s Day, and she finally said that she ‘…wished she would have never started the day because it became so out of
control …’”

Anna Jarvis lost that battle. Today Mother’s Day is the third most popular day to send greeting cards (eclipsed only by Christmas and Valentine’s Day). It’s estimated that $18.6 BILLION will be spent this year. Approximately 87
percent of all consumers will participate and spend, on average, $152.

So, if you want to honor the Mom’s in your life the traditional way, forgo the commercial cards and just write a note, don’t take her to dinner but do take her to church, give her a carnation and fly the American Flag… and, men, be prepared to sleep on the couch.

Update May 9, 2023: As I was reflecting on this post today I was struck by how much my world has changed since May 2017. At that point in time I was going back and forth from my home in Western Washington to Yakima about once every three or four weeks. My mother was then living at Apple Creek, an adult family home. Her mind had been ravaged by dementia, she was unable to walk, and conversations with her were at a basic level.

Mother’s Day 2017 – The last year with my Mom

For a few years, by then, I had wondered each time ‘is this the last Mother’s Day with my mom?’ As it turned out, 2017 was that year. On May 14th I was in Yakima to give Mom a card and spend some time with her. Just over six months later she was gone.

Things continued to change. I lost my dad in October 2019 and my father-in-law in July 2022. The only one left of that generation still with us is my mother-in-law (MIL). At 95 there are good days and bad days and this past weekend the hubby and I drove the hour north to go visit her for an early Mother’s Day (I somehow got the date of Mother’s Day confused and was a week early. That sometimes occurs when you are focused on a topic and writing about something which hasn’t yet happened!)

But back to my MIL. She still lives in the family farmhouse, cared for by my sister-in-law and her hubby.

My Mother In Law with her four children, circa 1964

So I spent the afternoon visiting with my MIL. We reminisced – with the aid of a book one of her granddaughters put together – looking at some of the hundreds of family photos. For about an hour and half, my MIL identified various family members – all long since gone – and locations. We talked about the circumstances of her childhood; how her father had died of tuberculosis when my MIL was not even four years old. How it was that she came to be mostly raised by her grandmother due to the tumultuous life of her own mother.

As we perused the photos I used post it notes which I will transcribe to labels and add to my copy of the book in the near future, the genealogist in me not wanting to lose this important family history. We talked and visited until it seemed she was tired and it was the right time to take a break.

Great Grandma with her great grandson 2016

Later, after sharing a dinner with the family, we took our leave. Hugs were shared and promises of ‘yes, we’ll come back soon’ were given. And we will.

I think Anna Jarvis was absolutely correct. Mother’s Day really should be a day about honoring our mother’s with the greatest gift we can give them: our time and attention. That, afterall, is what Mothers everywhere cherish most.

For more interesting facts about Mother’s Day:

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s