Mother’s Day: Celebrating as a Mother and as a Daughter

 I had eight birds hatcht in one nest,

Four cocks were there, and Hens the rest.

I nurst them up with pain and care,

No cost nor labour did I spare

Till a the last they felt their wing,

Mounted the Trees and learned to sing.

–Anne Bradstreet (ca. 1612-1672), “In Reference to Her Children, 23 June 1659,” Full text here.

 Monday Morning Musings

Yesterday was Mother’s Day, at least here in the US. The holiday began as efforts to help poor mothers, fight injustice, and oppose war. Anna Reeves Jarvis of West Virginia fought to bring sanitation facilities and clean water to people in parts of Appalachia. In 1858, she organized Mother’s Work Days. After the Civil War she gathered mothers and soldiers from both sides of the conflict in a Mother’s Friendship Day. Her daughter–also Anna–wanted to continue her mother’s fight. After Anna Jarvis, the mother, died in 1905, her daughter wanted to organize a Mother’s Day celebration to honor all mothers and the sacrifices they make for their children. She lobbied politicians and wrote letters to newspapers, and finally President Woodrow Wilson signed a proclamation in 1914 that established the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day. Jarvis became outraged by the flowers, candy, and greeting card commercialism that the holiday assumed. She ultimately disowned the holiday entirely. (Historian Ruth Rosen discusses the activism and antiwar origins of the Mother’s Day here.)

I certainly understand those who decry the artificiality and commercialism of the holiday. At the same time, I like it. I recently thought about my very first mother’s day as a mother. On my way to my mother’s, my husband and I stopped at a friend’s house to show off our new daughter, who was about 3 months old. I, of course, was madly in love with my little girl, and I thought she was the most beautiful creature in existence, bald head and all. Our friend’s mother, made a big fuss, told me to sit down and waited on me. She said to me, “This is your first mother’s day, and you should feel special.” All these years later, I still remember that. And I did feel special.

Over the past few years, our mother’s day tradition has been to gather at my sister’s house. We have brunch or lunch, and then take my mom clothes shopping. Last Mother’s Day, she wanted to buy an outfit to wear for my older daughter’s wedding; this year, she wanted to buy an outfit to wear for my younger’s daughter wedding. It is a bit of an ordeal to take my mom shopping—she can’t move or see very well—but with four of us, my younger daughter, my sister-niece, and my sister—we got the job done. We had to help dress her in the dressing room, which actually led to many laughs. When I think about it, it seems only fair that we help her dress. After all, how many times did she do it for all of us? Happily, she did find an outfit to wear.

My mom and me. I'm about 3 years old.

My mom and me. I’m about 3 years old.

Before we left for the mall, my sister and sister-in-law fortified us with pasta, salad, and bread—all delicious. My sister-in-law, “the men,” and children remained behind at the house. After we returned from our long shopping expedition, we had dessert—a chocolate extravaganza. Did you doubt this? I get my love of chocolate from my mom—so I baked a flourless chocolate cake topped with chocolate glaze and sea salt and my Mandelbrot cookies, which are called “Mommy Cookies” at my house. (I have several posts dedicated to this, my favorite cookie. Just do a search.) I kind of had to bake those, didn’t I? My sister added 2 boxes of chocolate to the dessert feast, just in case we didn’t have enough. We sat outside on my sister and sister-in-law’s deck and enjoyed the warm weather and evening breeze.

During dessert we attempted to FaceTime chat with my older daughter, but it didn’t work too well. Still, I did get to talk to her a bit. My younger daughter made me a wonderful Super Momma card that made me feel special—and some baking pans. Chocolate and baking genes run through the generations in my family!

When my mom is no longer with us, Mother’s Day will certainly be different. My siblings and I will no longer have a reason to get together for it, just as we no longer get together on Father’s Day. Although we might grumble about taking my mom shopping, I will miss that tradition and the crazy dressing room antics.

Mothers and Daughters

Mothers and Daughters

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16 thoughts on “Mother’s Day: Celebrating as a Mother and as a Daughter

  1. Once again you covered all the bases blending history and personal anecdote. Your family could certainly do a commercial for the conviviality of chocolate. I”m so touched that your adult daughter gave you a hand-made card, you probably even more so. Great post!

    • Thanks so much, Marian. My daughters and I tend to make our cards. It was not “fancy,” but the sentiment was heartfelt. This year, I made my mom a photo card because I thought she might be able to see it better than one that was handwritten.

  2. Wonderful sharing of many aspects of Mother’s Day. For us (starting last year), it’s another day as we didn’t have children and both of our mothers are gone (1987, 2013) … but we hold the memories well.

    Thanks for the history … after all, everything has one.

  3. A sweet post, Merril. I’m reminded often how different life is in a large family compared to the only child/single mother duo of my youth. While I don’t dwell in “if onlys,” still, I’m a tad envious. I hope you and your sisters get to enjoy many more frustratingly happy shopping sprees with your mom.

    • Thanks so much, Janet. I have a much older brother and sister (she has not been on these Mother’s Day adventures), and then there’s my younger sister and me. My younger sister and I sometimes call my older sister’s daughter our sister. Probably more than you want to know. 🙂

  4. I too have the pleasure of celebrating a mother into her old age and four siblings to help. I don’t look forward to the day I’ll wear black on Mother’s Day, so I hope to do what I can to make Mother laugh and smile and feel her hugs and soft cheeks now. You remind us of the preciousness of life itself. Thank you, Merril.

  5. Aww, that’s so sweet! (No pun intended for all the chocolate you ingested.) Your mama seems like a dear lady. I’m so glad you get this time with her. ❤ I wish your other daughter lived closer so you could have seen her in person.

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