Mother’s Day is coming and I hope you are all planning creative ways to honor and remember your mothers. Creative being the operative word here. No need to buy a card, make one! No need to buy flowers, pick some wild ones. Cook for her, fold the laundry, pull some weeds. Just about any gesture will do to show her you appreciate all she does.
Mother’s Day is celebrated many different ways throughout the world. Yugoslavia’s sounds the least appealing. Mother’s Day there is preceded by Children’s Day and followed by Father’s Day. On Children’s Day, the children are tied up and not released until they promise good behavior. On Mother’s Day, the mothers are bound until they promise to give sweets and treats to their family. On Father’s Day, the dads are tied up and made to promise bigger things like vacuum cleaners and shoes. In Finland, the family takes a walk together in the morning, picking spring flowers to present to the mother and then serving her breakfast in bed. In Italy, La Festa della Mamma is celebrated with a feast, a heart-shaped cake, and the whole family doing chores for mamma.
Ironically, the woman who dedicated years to making Mother’s Day a national holiday spent the last years of her life fighting its commercialization. She was not a mother herself, but a devoted daughter. When Ann Reeves Jarvis died, her daughter, Anna Jarvis, campaigned for an official Mother’s Day in honor of peace and to celebrate all mothers living and dead. Julia Ward Howe, who wrote “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” also fought for an international day to honor motherhood. After years of lobbying by Jarvis, Woodrow Wilson signed a declaration in 1914 making the second Sunday in May Mother’s Day.
As the mother of an only child, an awesome, grown-up, handsome, smart, and adored child, I love to see what he comes up with for Mother’s Day. For quite a few years I would get elaborately hand-drawn cards depicting Japanese anime and manga from Billy. I would try to decipher the meaning of the artwork filled with busty Japanese schoolgirls with pigtails and short skirts. One year’s Mother’s Day card needed no explanation. It was a three-dimensional card, the front being an illustration of Billy playing video games with the caption “my dream.” The inside illustration was captioned “Mom’s dream.” The video game has exploded and disappeared.
Having been raised in a foodie household, Billy has been cooking for at least 15 of his 24 years. So my favorite Mother’s Day gift is a meal he has concocted, shopped for, and cooked himself, often Thai food. I get the pleasure of watching this young man mixing coconut milk, chopping jalapenos, and carefully adding just the right amount of fish sauce to his homemade red curry with eggplant.
Sometimes it is another of his specialties, panzanella salad, a delicious rustic Italian bread salad full of tomatoes and onions and fresh herbs. He also knows I will probably ask him to pull a few weeds or clip some bushes, my least favorite chores. He happily obliges by popping in his earbuds, blasting the Beastie Boys, and getting to work.
Although the flower and greeting card industries have been accused of taking full advantage of Mother’s Day guilt-inducing purchases, it needn’t be that way. Dads, if your children are small, have them help with a simple breakfast in bed — toast, cereal, fruit. Or adopt the charming Finnish tradition of a family walk, picking wildflowers along the way for a bouquet for mum. Kids, if you’re old enough, cook a whole meal for your mother, or plant a baby tree or lilac bush.
This coming Mother’s Day we will probably indulge in the same activity as millions of other Americans: Go out for brunch and scarf down our favorite dish of eggs Benedict. Billy will dress nicely, attempt to mind his table manners, put his napkin in his lap, and try not to finish his meal in the usual 3.2 seconds. I will sit across from him and stare in wonderment. Is this strapping young man spouting political opinions really the baby I gave birth to 24 years ago? The little boy who gave me his favorite Pokemon card one year and now knows to give me my favorite lemon verbena soap?
Some people reject these little holidays and celebrations, saying that “every day is Mother’s Day” or “every day should be Valentine’s Day.” Well, yes and no. As for me, I will be remembering how wonderful my mother, Honoria, was, and marveling at how lucky I am to have such a fine, fine young man as my son. My real and true Mother’s Day is Aug. 13, 1987. Now, how about those weeds?