Anna Jarvis was the force behind founding Mother’s Day in the US. Despite never marrying and having children, Anna Jarvis is known as the Mother of Mothers Day, a proper title for one who worked hard to show honor to all mothers.

Anna’s mother, Mrs. Anna Marie Reeves Jarvis, was her inspiration. An activist and social worker, Mrs. Jarvis often expressed a wish that someday someone would honor all mothers, living and dead, and pay tribute to their contributions.

A loving daughter, Anna never forgot her mother’s words and when her mother died in 1905, she resolved to fulfill her mother’s wish. The growing negligent attitude of adult Americans toward their mothers and a wish to honor her mother soared her ambitions.

Anna along with supporters wrote letters to people in positions of power lobbying for the official declaration of Mother’s Day holiday. By 1911, almost every state in the Union recognized Mother’s Day, and on May 8, 1914, President Woodrow Wilson signed a Joint Resolution designating the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day.

It is unfortunate to note that Anna Jarvis, who devoted her life to the declaration of Mother’s Day, was deeply hurt to note the huge commercialization of the day as time passed on.

(Adapted from Mother’s Day History)

 * * *

My memories of Mother’s Day are a bit cloudy, filled with confusion, and frustration. Each year it was a shopping trip with Dad to buy a Mother’s Day gift and card for Mom.

When I was young, the experience was not meaningful to me because Dad did the shopping and card picking. However, later as an adolescent with good reading skills and developing interpersonal skills, I would read the cards in the stand at the drugstore and think to myself:

  • If I give her this card, it will be telling a lie.
  • This card talks about her love for me — another lie.  She doesn’t love me.
  • Sugary, flowery, and filled with accolades that didn’t apply — more lies.

So I would move on to the next store.  And they were all the same.

It was almost like it would be easier if I had no mother to celebrate on this special occasion. Gripping pains in my heart and mind made it an almost unbearable experience.  How was I to honor a mother who didn’t care, who worked at frightening and demoralizing, who seemed to find her joy in hurting?

Then, I became a mother.  My son brought home handmade cards.  He picked out some trinket at the five-and-dime. They brought smiles to my face.  Pain upon pain missing something that the very woman to be celebrated on this day set aside to celebrate mothers had taken away.

Years later we moved away.  I thought it would be easier now — order flowers, have them delivered, somebody else would sign the card.  And yet, it was the act of choosing to send this magnificent bouquet.  I went through the motions on an annual basis. It was what this day required of me.

Finally, one year — 2001 — I knew what to do. I knew which card to select. I knew why she had been the way she was toward me. Silently forgiveness had graced our relationship as she lay dying.  Then, I could only wish I had known the “other woman” she was a little longer.

I do not at all understand the mystery of grace – only that
it meets us where we are but does not leave us where it found us.

~ Anne Lamott

15 thoughts on “Retrospective on Mother’s Day

  1. You are an amazing person in general and I am quite sure that has also made you one hell of a mum. Always good thoughts to you. Warm wishes for a beautiful and stress free day.

    1. Ionia, I’m hoping you were celebrated on this the day we celebrate our mothers. My day was beautiful and as stress free as it can be when one is packing up for a two-week trip across the country. 🙂

  2. Reblogged this on Wyndy Dee and commented:Mother’s Day is always hard for me as well. Honor your mother…theme every year in church…my children do that for me, but my alcoholic mother has literally disowned me, told me she wishes I were never born. Yet, I forgive her, I’m not angry anymore, just hurt. I strive to be the mother I never had, putting expectations on myself that are so not necessary because I would NEVER abandon my children at 16, or any age! I’d die for them. After seven pregnancies, and three miracles…they are my heart, my joy, my legacy. I love my mother, I wish she felt the same for me. I’m blessed to have a mom in my mother-in-law. She had been my mom since I was 18, though she didn’t know it til I was around 20. I strive to be like her. She isn’t perfect, and there are days I remember I’m the DIL not the real daughter, but those are few and far between. She loves me and all my faults. She is wonderful and I love her dearly.
    We can’t change who we are grateful to for giving us life, we can change how we use it to be a better mom ourselves. Hugs and Love! Happy Mother’s Day!

    1. Wyndy, I too had a gem of a mother-in-law, one who filled in the gaps for me as a woman and daughter. I miss them both, and I completely understand your feelings. I especially love your last paragraph!

  3. Wow…it says something wonderful about you that you did continue to honor your mother even when she did not honor you. You are a strong and loving person, Sherrey. I admire you very much!

  4. I agree with every thing else that is already said here. I also had no idea about the history of Mother’s Day. Although, I suppose if I ever gave its history any thought, I would have assumed Mother Goose had something to do with it.

  5. Sherrey, Have a wonderful cross-country trip!
    As for the history of Mother’s Day, well, a Resolution was easy as it didn’t cost any money. The sacrifices that mothers must make every day in this country – from working a job or two jobs, trying to find daycare . . . yet – until recently there was so little support for working mothers or paid leaves. And before that, mothers grew up in a time where there were no blueprints, no mentors on how to be a mother and find her own identity at the same time. I have written about my mother both in my memoir, Morning at Wellington Square, and on the NAMW website . . . so I will not belabor the point here, but, like you, it was toward the very end of her life – and after her death, that I could receive her with the grace and forgiveness I felt I owed her as her daughter. She never had it easy, yet it took me more than five decades to appreciate her perspective and where she was coming from; her generation of women bearing the brunt of an “old system” – a patriarchal culture that stifled so many from becoming full actualized human beings . . . and thus, role models for their daughters.

    1. Susan, you are so accurate in your assessment here of our mothers’ generation. I’ve often thought my mother was jealous of the opportunities presented to me and my desire to pursue them. And yes, it takes time to perceive the true nature and basis from which their actions derive. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  6. Sherrey, Yours spirit of forgiveness toward your mother who had been less than kind to you never fails to move me deeply. I find myself rejoicing though in this triumphant moment you experienced as she lay dying, seeing the woman behind the woman and reaching out in love to her. It is blessing and gift that you have been able let go and live your life with more peace. I hope your Mother’s Day was filled the peace and joy you are so deservng of. Blessings, Kathy

    1. Kathy, a little slow on responding as we’re traveling in the midwest and south heading to a grandson’s high school graduation. On the train for two days without wi-fi was akin to withdrawal from any ingrained habit. 🙂
      Thank you for your thoughts on this post. It is the crux and climax of my book — what we don’t know about another impacts our relationship with that person and vice versa. It’s the finding out the root cause of another’s behavior that sends us on a course to forgiveness and grace.

  7. Very interesting and well-written, Sherrey. I’m glad you were able to make peace with your mother. It must have been very difficult. I love the redemption that comes when Mother’s Day goes from being a painful and perfunctory to the blessing of receiving from our children. It is they who remind us that the legacy of pain can end with us.
    Safe travels and I hope you have a wonderful time. Thank you for your interest and encouragement in my writing endeavors. I’m so glad we’re friends.

    1. Grace, thanks so much for your sweet words and encouraging comments. Travel postponed my ability to reply to your comments but they meant a great deal and I wanted to be sure and connect with a good writing friend.

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