Anna Jarvis, the founder of Mother’s Day, believed the country had a duty to all national mothers to celebrate them for their oftentimes sacrificial support for their love and care. The first known Sunday, a day of rest for God and mothers, began May 10, 1908. Parade’s online site has an article, “What is the history of Mother’s Day”? In 1914, Woodrow Wilson agreed with her and others and passed the bill for “Mother,” to be honored on the 2nd Sunday in May.
How did we celebrate Mother’s Day up to the time I became a mother? When we could, we gathered at my mom’s or aunt’s table, had a picnic sometimes, but we always focused on being together and eating. We gave Grandma, the one who started all this family for my generation, flowers for her rock garden. Her daughters help plant her favorites. The celebration was nothing super fancy, often, potluck, but laughter and happiness accompanied aunts and uncles, nieces and nephews, cousins, mothers and fathers, and of course, Grandpa with Grandma, around the table.
Whether we were at the old homestead or the kid’s homes, we came together to celebrate these women’s charitable contributions to their families. Time was set for this day, that special Sunday, and usually right after we attended church we’d either drive for another “over the river and through the woods” event or race home and get the table set for a houseful of company.
The honoring of mothers was not given a special day or set up as a holiday by the government during my novels’ timeframes. Maude’s and Jennie’s mothers in my Minnesota Main Street Women’s series were already dead by the time the days of focused respect came about. So many of my extended family members are out of the area. Getting together with cousins and their children won’t take place since we don’t have our mothers telling us what to do or insisting on TRADITION. I guess that is why we gather at weddings and funerals if we can to celebrate our familiness.
It is now the next generation’s turn, not mine anymore. Lives have become so busy, it is hard to get together period. And last year? Last year was the year of Zoom, phone calls, and lovely cards. We cannot fix that. Yet, our longing to be together was with us for the remaining 364 days. Let’s try to make up for lost time, remember mothers, grandmothers, aunts–all the women in your lives–by giving them a special moment carved out of busy, busy lives. We women have a lot of loving to do yet.
As an author, I mostly focus on women’s studies and women’s history. I especially enjoying writing about strong women who have made an impact in the world. Did you know a woman named Anna Jarvis, as well as many others, lay claim to founding Mothers’ Day?
My family and I had a nice Mothers’ Day hosted by my oldest son and daughter-in-law. Good fun, lots of good chatter, grandchildren, and May birthday celebrations with a BIG cake were the order of this day. On top of all that, good weather! What could get any better?
When I returned home, I turned on TCM and saw that one of my favorite old movies, I Remember Mama with one of my favorite actresses, Irene Dunn, was playing. This mother was the heart of the family as my mother and my grandmother were. Honored once a year, these women represented the models most of us appreciate. I have many happy memories of long-ago Mothers’ Days when my own “Mama” and grandma were still around, yet my own Mother’s Day, the ones I share now with my daughters-in-law and granddaughters, is even more special.
This day that was devoted to my mother and everyone I knew began in Sunday School. In the musty church basement, I created the same things for a number of years. From the pail of broken color crayons, I with others crafted our card of love on construction paper. From scribbles that the teacher addressed “To Mommy” from “Cindy” to more ornate three-dimensional pictures I designed when I was older, my greeting accompanied a paper cup of petunias or marigolds. Right after the last stanza of “This Little Light of Mine,” I ran up the steep steps and out the door to the waiting car where my mother sat. I offered her my precious gifts by dumping them in her lap before hopping into the back seat so Dad could drive us to visit Grandma and Grandpa for a family get-together. Grandma welcomed us along with our other aunts, uncles, and cousins. My mother and her sisters gave their mother flats of pansies, her favorite flowers. If it was warm, we ate outside and always, always, the center of the table held glass bowls heaping with glistening olives, green and black, as if they were the most precious gems in the world. Anyone passing the table grabbed a few from the bowls which Grandma or aunts filled as fast as they were emptied. When dinner was over, as the men sat around yakking in the lawn chairs, Grandma’s daughters, my aunts, cleaned up the table, scraped plates, packaged up leftovers and washed, wiped, and put away the dishes. Then they all knelt in her rock garden and planted the flowers for her.
Not much changed in Sunday School over the years, and when it was my turn for my sons to share the same gifts with me, the hosting batons were handed down to others. I remember the joy I felt when the boys were little and presented me with their teacher-planted petunias and their special handiwork on their cards. Their etchings were usually flowers and rainbows, and I showed them off on the bookshelf until I put them in my drawer of memories. Their flowers seldom survived. They were replanted and often drenched with loving care. For years, especially after Grandma could no longer throw big parties, my mother’s baton became the potato masher as she became hostess for this special day. I don’t remember planting flowers in her garden because my dad and sister pretty much handled that, but I remember big family hugs, lots of laughing and talking, a few hands of 500 around the dining room table, a Twins game blasting on the TV in the living room, lots of food–all garnished with the same center pieces–green and black olives, and the dishes–stacks of plates, platters, and serving bowls, and silverware that usually my sister and I tackled with our batons, a wash cloth and drying towel.
I can still handle the cooking if I have to, but life and traditions change. Daughters-in-law and sons usually alternate the holidays and activities with us. Other things have changed as well. Although we often have olives, they aren’t the center pieces. Sometimes a baby sits in the middle of the table. We have other tastes as well. I ‘m not sure what my grandparents or parents would have eaten without turkey or ham. Now we often have pulled pork sandwiches or someone’s fired up the b-b-q. We eat salads of all kinds. This time, because I was hungry for it, I brought tomatoes and mozzarella that my daughter-in-law garnished with balsamic vinegar and olive oil. I doubt my grandmother or mother would have had these in their pantries. Holidays like Mothers’ Day are still traditional, a time for love, a game of Old Maid, and giggles with the grand kids.
As far as I am concerned, anytime I can see my family, it is Mothers’ Day. Thank you sister for such great photos. They bring a smile to my face, and I ache to see them as soon as possible.
Mothers’ Day 2017 with daughters-in-law and granddaughters