12 May

“Happy Mother’s Day,” the driver chirped as I descended the bus’ steps outside the college. The comment made me pause. I’m not a mother. Not yet anyway. I almost had the mind to correct him: Instead, I smiled and offered thanks.  No harm done, right?

Tomorrow is two years shy of the centennial celebration of America’s mothers. The national holiday was signed into law in 1914 by Woodrow Wilson.  But whenever the holiday is mentioned, the memory of Anna B. Jarvis haunts the saying. It was she who campaigned for a national observance of Mother’s Day after her own beloved mother died. In 1908, the first official Mother’s Day celebration took place, as Jarvis placed white carnations, her mother’s favorite flower, as adornation on each patron and gave a pair of carnations to each mother in attendance.  Jarvis petitioned state governments, organizations and churches to support her campaign for a national Mother’s Day. But as her wish was granted, Jarvis was appalled by the blooming commercialization of the holiday she had so fervently fought to create. She abhorred the sale of flowers on the date that remain the biggest day of the year for florists.

 “What will you do to route charlatans, bandits, pirates, racketeers, kidnappers and other termites that would undermine with their greed one of the finest, noblest and truest movements and celebrations?” she voiced.

She wasn’t a fan of the Hallmark’s of the world either:

“A printed card means nothing except that you are too lazy to write to the woman who has done more for you than anyone in the world.” 
Daily Finance projects $2.2 billion sales on flowers for Mother’s Day this year. According to Hallmark, Mother’s Day was the third-largest card-sending holiday of the year: 133 million Mother’s Day cards annually.

 Jarvis, the holiday’s founder, died childless and penniless in a nursing home. Ironically, her care and final arrangements were paid for by the Florist’s Exchange.

Jarvis’ tale made me think as I waded through the store’s aisle in search for something for my own mother. I stared at the rainbow-colored bouquet of carnations sprouting from a vase. I think Jarvis’ problem had nothing to do specifically with flowers and their sales. It was the exchange of flowers and money for the true sentiment that she envisioned the holiday would hold. It was the ready microwave acceptance of the quick and easy fix over the deeper sense of reflection and appreciation for what the women who birthed us and nurtured us and nursed our dreams and goals throughout the years.

After a long day of work, I began my trek home eager to celebrate the weekend’s arrial. Outside the college, as the bus rumbled past I leaned my head back on the seat and sighed. One day out of 365 is certainly not enough. But it’s a great reminder. My thoughts turned my gift as the bus slowed to a stop. As I descended the now-familiar stairs once more, the bus driver waved farewell.

“Happy Mother’s Day,” she grinned.

I shook my head and smiled. Maybe one day. At least I’ve had a great model of motherhood and its true meaning.

“Sooner or later we all discover that the important moments in life are not the advertised ones, not the birthdays, the graduations, the weddings, not the great goals achieved.
The real milestones are less prepossessing. They come to the door of memory unannounced, stray dogs that amble in, sniff around a bit and simply never leave. Our lives are measured by these.”

~ Susan B. Anthony


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