Mother’s Day and My Memoir

Years ago I hated Mother’s Day.
The search for a card was the worst. A card that didn’t say: “Mom, you’re the greatest,” “I adore you, Mom,” “Mother, you’re the best ever!” And Hallmark had plenty more I ignored and didn’t buy until I felt guilty.

The verses and kudos didn’t fit the mother I had. In fact, sometimes I wished she were dead. Then I’d be free of the abuses, emotional and verbal. But I’m not in charge of life and death choices.

Despite my feelings, I always sent flowers and a vanilla card. How could I not? She was my mother. She breathed life into me. Yet she seemed to hate me. And I didn’t know why.

Years passed. Hurts continued. One day I learned I would move Mama to Oregon near my home to care for her. No longer mobile, she needed professional care. With the support of my husband, the move took place.

And with that move came changes. Changes in Mama. Changes we couldn’t believe. What happened? What caused her to change? I have the answers to the questions, but I’m saving them for my memoir.

What I can share with you is that I never imagined feeling sad on Mother’s Day because she isn’t here. She died 10 months after we moved her to Oregon.

This is the last photo taken of Mama just before we moved her in December 2000. With her are my nephew, Kevin, and a younger me.

I believe she died happily. I was the one unhappy when she died despite those earlier wishes.

I pondered all the years we’d spent defying one another, arguing, hurting and, yes, hating each other. Why? Another question I know the answer to now. But you’ll have to wait.

And you know something? There is a good side to my mother. I hope to do justice to that part of her story in my memoir. She deserves nothing less.

Via Google Images Via Google Images

Retrospective on Mother’s Day

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