I know that Mother’s Day has become a manufactured holiday, but I would be pretty hurt if my family ignored it, i.e., me. As with all other holidays, families have very different ideas of how to spend the day, with brunch seemingly the most popular time to get together, but then again, that could just be my perception due to the preponderance of Mother’s Day brunch advertising.
My family’s approach has been pretty casual. When I was growing up, my father always grilled something. We bought my mother gifts, and we were simply asked not to fight with each other or cause any trouble, which is a lot to ask from five kids.
When my kids were younger and my mother was still alive, we had Mother’s Day dinners at my house, with the majority of the cooking falling to me. I don’t really recall being too resentful about this, but everything is a little blurry from when my kids were little.
Men in my life, from my own Dad forward, have used that day as a grilling day. Never mind that Mom still does the shopping and makes the side dishes, if Dad is behind the grill it “counts” as mom not having to make dinner in lots of families. Just a few years ago, we went to Great Adventure on Mother’s Day. It was my brilliant thought that no one else would be there, because no other mothers would be as awesome and selfless as me, of course. But, the day turned out to be a miserable, wet, spitty day and the park was packed with awesome and selfless moms and their families!
I remember the gifts my kids would make me, but they’re mostly blurry too: paper-plate hats and construction-paper flowers and hearts and glittered-and-painted macaroni. I held onto the hand-painted Cremora container vase and the sunshine trivet. The laminated cut-outs of our hands strung on a ribbon has not moved from its place on the dining room window since Allison, now 21, gave it to me when she was nine.
I guess I should forget what I just said about being selfless, because I cannot stand when I am given gifts that are for the home or kitchen. Mom’s needs and desires already get so lost in the shuffle of everyday life, I think, on holidays and birthdays an effort should be made to remember who they are other than domestic goddesses. I felt this way even pre-motherhood: When I was pregnant with my first child, my brother-in-law picked my name in the Christmas Pollyanna and saw fit to buy me a giant teddy bear. I wanted to throw it away, and was petrified that the bear was a sign of things to come. It was.
I don’t want to tell my kids what I want; I want them to be clever and to know me. The Internet is treacherous territory, though, with everyone touting their own product as “perfect for Mother’s Day,” like a mail-order beer company who claims its “informal research shows there are many beer brands that appeal to women ages 50-60.”
And I have to say that the irony of the Washington Post hawking tech savy gifts from a throwback mentality irks the hell out of me. Their first suggestion? A tablet, because “Moms are using tablets to more easily manage their calendars, watch videos with their kids, play games and check email … though Mom may need a nice, big bag to go with it.”
The woman credited with creating Mother’s Day, Anna Jarvis, petitioned for years for Mother’s Day to become a legal holiday, in order to honor the social activism of her own mother. A common early activity was the meeting of groups of mothers whose sons had fought or died on opposite sides of the American Civil War.
We’re used to having “firsts” in Philadelphia, and Mother’s Day is no different: The first large-scale celebration was a ceremony held in the Wanamaker Auditorium.
Was the Wanamaker family’s involvement also a sign of things to come? Within nine years of Mother’s Day becoming a legal holiday, Jarvis, outraged at how commercialized the holiday had become, petitioned for it to stop, suing people for misusing the name she had copyrighted, decrying store-bought greeting cards as too easy for the lazy.
I’m not as extreme as Anna Jarvis; I’d like a little something. I don’t want to go away for the weekend, like some moms do, and I don’t even want to spend the day at a spa. I’d like to be around my kids on Mother’s Day. They are old enough to cook a decent breakfast, and it’s fine that they are too young to have any money for substantial gifts. I’d like to hang out, watch movies and, like we did for my own Mom, simply not have anything asked of me for one day.