Everyone spells it Mother’s Day, as though it is something unique for each mom, but, unless you have a four-year-old turned loose with crayons and glue stick, there is nothing very unique about it at all, and so I spell it Mothers’ Day by way of protest. It’s one-size-fits-all because it markets well. Buy something, anything! Prove you love your mom! I have two wonderful sons. They don’t need to prove anything on Mothers’ Day. They probably wouldn’t agree, but, hey, I’m the mom and it’s Mothers’ Day, so I’m right.
I am busy with my own Mothers’ Day thoughts, which have turned back to my grandmothers. Perhaps you have met them in my blog. One was kind; one was not. Each shaped me.
Both were daughters of immigrants. Both were born into poverty, one in the coal country of Pennsylvania and the other in a back-of-the-yards tenement in South Chicago. Neither finished grade school. One went to work in a box factory, gluing velvet to the insides of boxes; the other went to live with another family as their servant. Both had alcoholic fathers who were not admirable men.
Both worked very hard. Both held staunchly to the faith taught by their own mothers.
Both died at 90, so they weren’t just wispy aproned memories from my childhood; they were flesh-and-blood women who walked firmly in the day-to-day of family. They held my hand and held my babies.
I knew them as mothers of my parents. But who were they before they were mothers?
And that, daughters and sons of mothers, is the question for Mothers’ Day.
Can you look at a pansy and not be smitten by the pretty face before you? There is no “just” about it; it is mesmerizing in its velvety contour and coquettish symmetry. And what about that radiant depth of purple and magenta? Westminster never saw the like.
Unbidden, a Mom memory pops up as I contemplate prettiness: my mother told me I was not a pretty baby. Really now. Aren’t mothers supposed to deal in superlatives? As in My baby is theprettiest/cutest/smartest? She said I was a sweet baby. Sweet? Sweet never set anyone on a path to fame and fortune! Who wants to be sweet?
I had long been aware that my mother was disappointed in my looks. She SO wanted a Ginger Rogers, but she got me. I had no idea — until advanced adulthood — that she hadn’t even thought I was a pretty baby.
Life has introduced me to many other women who tell similar stories: their mothers were disappointed in them and made it known. What’s up with that? Why the heaping tablespoon of daily criticism?
I have read that in some traditions mothers call their daughters horrible things in order to keep the devil away. Mom’s mom never had a kind word to say to or about her — was she protecting Mom from the devil? Do I wear the amulet of generations of harsh words? If so, its power will protect my female descendants into perpetuity.
A mother’s approval is not a jinx. The pansies and I say so.