Op-Ed

In honor of our mothers on Mother’s Day

The history of Mother’s Day in the U.S.

Ever wonder what the origin of Mother's Day is? It turns out the idea for the day was created prior to the Civil War in the U.S.
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Ever wonder what the origin of Mother's Day is? It turns out the idea for the day was created prior to the Civil War in the U.S.

The initial proclamation to honor mothers came about in 1870, by Anne Jarvis, a woman who had helped wounded soldiers on both sides of the Civil War and felt peace would be most ensured by mothers. Jarvis asked women to join together on a mothers’ day for world peace.

The very first official Mother’s Day was celebrated in 1908. In 1914, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed it a national holiday to occur annually on the second Sunday in May.

It is interesting to note that generally, the first word a baby utters is the “ma” sound, which is where the word “mom” came from. That bond of a newborn with its mom at birth is strong and a connection like no other.

On Mother’s Day, there are more phone calls than any other day during the year. It is the busiest day of the year for restaurants. The favorite gift to give our moms on Mother’s Day is a card, and carnations became significant for the day; red carnations meant your mom was still alive and a bouquet of white meant she had passed. All varieties are used now to celebrate a mom.

We certainly have our differences in our nation as well as globally, but humankind is alike in at least one respect: We all have a mother. Love them, dislike them, be abandoned or worse, be uncared for or discarded, we had a mother that brought us here to earth. If you walk the planet, you had a mother that planted your feet on terra firma. Our mothers carry us around in their bodies, bring us through childbirth. The best nurture and care for us and then when the time comes, they allow us to fly, and yes, often push us out of the nest. The time has come to allow the child to seek his/her own life journey. It is not easy for most mothers, but it is definitely a rite of passage.

A year ago, I lost my sweet mother; she died at the age of 97 ½ just a few days past Mother’s Day. So, this Mother’s Day our Hendricks’ family marks the first annual celebration without her. It has been a difficult year and the loss is still immense. Although she was by most measures “old,” she continued to read novels, the newspaper, knew the date and kept up with current events. She was frail and could not venture out any longer, but we still had amazing conversations.

On Mother’s Day last, three of her daughters sat in her room at Magnolia Woods in Tumwater, talked of life and loved ones, of bygone days, of the flowers she had received and the birds at her window, of the day and how grateful we all were to share another Mother’s Day. She even talked about plans for her 100th birthday. We had no idea she would be gone three short days later. You never know.

In her later years, my mom spent a lot of time in her family home in Whigham, Georgia. Not that many years ago, we sat together as we had often done, on the back porch of that old Victorian home. Night fell, I walked her into bed and then went back to the porch. This is what I wrote:

We sat and talked, just the two of us, a time for similar souls, to settle into that comfort of space, sharing generational roles.

Last night in your robe and slippers, your eyes that sparkled with love, I saw as the sun set around us, a mother who never lost touch.

Oh time added lines to your pretty face, your hair is a shimmering white, your hands though aged and worn, are still soft, your nails polished and as always, adorned.

Age has not dampened your spirit, and your mind is still keen and engaged, and I so enjoy our times together, as just one of the many you raised.

I have seen the love of parent, of confidant and friend, perhaps not always what I wanted to hear, but delivered in love, with an open end.

Without you now, I sit on my porch, and remember those moments, our roles, I hope to pass to my children, that comfort of similar souls.

So to you, my mother, I love you and thank you for all that is “we”, and my breath, my life, your guiding light, and your steadfast protection of me.

I will treasure it all in my heart and my soul, as I become old and gray, and look towards the time, when it’s my turn to fly, and we are similar souls in another space.

Treasure the moments, my friends! I wish all the mothers a very Happy Mother’s Day.

Susan Ritter is a semiretired business owner and a member of the 2019 Olympian Board of Contributors. She may be reached at Susanhritter@comcast.net.
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