There have been many women in my life who have mothered me. Mother, grandmother, aunts, friends – each and all have given me wise counsel, unique perspective, and unconditional love. Today is a day set aside for each of us to celebrate and honor our mothers. What Mother’s Day has become is far from what Anna Jarvis had intended. The following is from Wikipedia:
“Anna Jarvis was born in the tiny town of Webster, West Virginia. She was the daughter of Ann Maria Reeves Jarvis. The family moved to nearby Grafton, West Virginia in her childhood. She graduated from what is now Mary Baldwin College in 1883.
Anna’s mother Ann Jarvis had founded Mothers’ Day Work Clubs in five cities to improve sanitary and health conditions. The Mothers’ Day Work Clubs also treated wounds, fed, and clothed both Union and Confederate soldiers with neutrality.
On May 12, 1907, two years after her mother’s death, Anna held a memorial to her mother and thereafter embarked upon a campaign to make “Mother’s Day” a recognized holiday. She succeeded in making this nationally recognized in 1914. The International Mother’s Day Shrine was established in Grafton to commemorate her accomplishment.
By the 1920s, Anna Jarvis had become soured by the commercialization of the holiday. She incorporated herself as the Mother’s Day International Association, trademarked the phrases “second Sunday in May” and “Mother’s Day”, and was once arrested for disturbing the peace. She and her sister Ellsinore spent their family inheritance campaigning against what the holiday had become. Both died in poverty. According to her New York Times obituary, Jarvis became embittered because too many people sent their mothers a printed greeting card. As she said,
A printed card means nothing except that you are too lazy to write to the woman who has done more for you than anyone in the world. And candy! You take a box to Mother—and then eat most of it yourself. A pretty sentiment.
Anna Marie Jarvis never married and had no children. She died in West Chester, Pennsylvania, and is buried in West Laurel Hill Cemetery, Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania.”
Further reading has informed me that Miss Jarvis was quite insistent on Mother’s Day remaining singular, as opposed to Mothers’ Day. She wanted the day to be an occasion for each person to honor his or her own mother, and not some generalized, commercialized day of flower and candy-giving. Of course, being the grand capitalists we Americans are, we generally ignored her intentions and made the second Sunday in May the day of every florist’s dream. More flowers are sold on that day than any other – including Valentine’s day. And more pre-printed cards, as well. Such is life – the American life, anyway.
My mother’s name was Pearl. She also was one – a Pearl of great value and worth (I refuse to put a “price” on her! I’ve written of her a great deal over the past year, and have only scratched the surface when it comes to describing her – her beauty, charm, intelligence, and wit. She was indeed a singular woman. I celebrate her today and every day, and think of her frequently, imagining her joy on seeing Zoë. I don’t know who first called my Mom “Pearly Gates,” but it was fitting. She lived a life of hospitality and love.
My mother’s mother was named Cordelia. Early on her friends called her “Cordy,” but that was long before I came along. She and my grandfather – Henry – were a well-matched pair from all I was told. I never knew my grandfather – he died shortly before my oldest brother was born. I know that he and Grandma loved playing games – most especially “42,” which is a game of dominoes played much like the card game “Bridge.” They played the game frequently with their friends, and Grandma was partnered with the man she always called her “Doll.” Small wonder she came to be called “Mrs. Doll” soon after they were married.
My grandparents’ life together was varied in style – Grandfather was a barber, owned a movie theater, ran a grocery store, and he also worked on the Gulf oil pipeline. Not a lot of money in any of those professions, but they always managed to be happy, and everyone was fed and clothed.
My grandmother had a unique style of parenting, as my mother would tell us. Apparently my mother had a bad habit as a young girl of not hanging her clothes up when she took them off in the evening. She says she managed to break that habit fairly early on because her mother would pick her clothes and shoes up for her and throw them out the window into the chicken yard. If she wanted her clothes, she had to walk barefoot out into the chicken yard and get them (and her shoes). Anyone who knows what a chicken yard is composed of will know that it is something you would not wish to walk on or through more times than absolutely necessary. My Mom used to tell me that nudity seemed like a reasonable alternative – particularly on rainy mornings, but that’s another story. In any event, I was glad we didn’t keep chickens when I was growing up. I was a sloppy kid. Since I am also a sloppy adult, it probably was unnecessary to tell you we didn’t keep chickens when I was young.
Here’s to mothers everywhere. There is no substitute for good mothering, and I can attest to the wonderful fact that I was on the receiving end of some wonderful mothering. They deserve a day – they deserve a lot more. The best we can do is to live a life that reflects their love and that passes it on down with renewed vigor to each succeeding generation.
So, to Pearly Gates and Mrs. Doll: just in case the two of you are reading this blog (I hope you have better things to do!), I wish you the joy of a wonderful Mother’s Day. I love you.
Gentle Readers, I wish you enough. . .