Everyone wants to remind me that it’s mothers’ day –a day that clearly holds Hallmark irrelevance while calling forth complex emotional responses. The grammatical confusion alone is enough to make me cringe; let’s see, is it “Mother’s Day”, “Mothers’ Day” or “Mothers Day”? Funny, or not so much, but when I hear the word “mothers” my first thought is of Frank Zappa, followed closely by the slur M-F’er.
Like many women who call themselves, or are called by others, mother, I have a lot of baggage to unload (or suppress) when I consider my personal history. So I try not to go there on a day prescribed by a consumer notion. But ignoring hasn’t worked today. I just read a version of the first “celebration” of mother’s day which was the brainchild of one Anna Jarvis, whose mother was a community health activist (Yay for that! ). Apparently she came to despise the national holiday. Her story below is sad, but edifying.
Jarvis died in a sanitarium in 1948. The holiday she created lives on. Today, more people purchase flowers and plants for Mother's Day than for any other holiday except Christmas/Hanukkah. This year alone, Americans will spend $23.1 billion on the holiday. And most of that money will be spent on jewelry: $4.6 billion.
So. I have difficult memories of both having and being a mother. I learned to love my mother late in her life, and am grateful that we managed to become close before her death. I lost custody of my son when he was barely five; yet he is and always has been my greatest joy. So whoever you are, whatever you are feeling on this day, be gentle and kind. Not everyone has the same associations with this day. I share this, but only for myself.
In which my brother goes to her grave and I shed a tear My brother goes to the grave site and says farewell to the engraving on the rock. I live far away and today the buttress crumbles and I miss my mother for the first time. I don’t know why he does it knowing and not knowing him so well is all I have to go on. Debt, veneration, relief, it’s all so mixed, right? Maybe in his melancholy he hoards an image of our family, but I feel misplaced today, weepy as if disowned, shorn from that photo not like me at all, the cold unfeeling bitch of me, knowing and not knowing myself so well, with no urge to go on after so many years.