It’s over. Too often, for too many women, that’s the best that can be said for Mother’s Day. Some of them need nothing so much on that second Sunday in May as a T-shirt to wear on Monday:
Don’t even ask.
I SURVIVED MOTHER’S DAY
I know a few of them. Some of them have grown children who, in an ever more mobile society, live in other states–to far to drop by for a visit. They love their moms but they’re busy with their own lives now, too busy to get a card in the mail. A gift? Maybe next year, “when money’s not so tight and we’ve got more free time.” These women don’t celebrate Mother’s Day. They wonder what they did wrong, get through it the best way they can.
Others I know have a far worse time of it. One, who hung on as best she could to make it through weeks of incessant Mother’s Day commercial hype–and the day itself–with no hope of a card, a hug, from her only child. He died last year, at sixteen.
Another, whose son is in Iraq. She’s not unlike thousands and thousands of other military moms. Except that her son is in the war zone on his fifth deployment and, at 32, he’s the “old man” responsible for all the 18-20 year olds who serve under him. They spend their wartime effort in convoys, moving whatever is needed to wherever it is needed on roads beset by bullets, rocket and mortar fire, IEDs and a burgeoning Iraqi population who see us as the enemy. Her Mother’s Day gift this year? Word that her son’s fifth tour of duty in Iraq is being extended. She survived by praying her son would, wondering if their luck would hold this time. How many “lucky” deployments is one family allowed before tragedy strikes?
Over 3300 American military mothers felt only loss and grief on Mother’s Day.
In 1870 Julia Ward Howe–who wrote “The Battle Hymn of the Republic”–penned the original Mother’s Day Proclamation:
“Arise, then, women of this day…Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn all that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience. We women of one country will be too tender to those of another country to allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs. From the bosom of a devastated Earth a voice goes up with our own, it says ‘Disarm! Disarm!’ The sword of murder is not the balance of justice. Blood does not wipe out dishonor nor violence indicate possession.”
Julia Ward Howe meant to establish an International Mother’s Day for Peace.
In 1914 President Woodrow Wilson declared Mother’s Day should be celebrated as a national holiday on the second Sunday in May. A fine thing.
But somewhere along the way Hallmark and Nordstrom and Wal-Mart and all of corporate America who could see a dime of profit to be made in “Mother’s Day” took over. They’ve made a commercial mockery of what was intended to be a worldwide day of mothers united for peace. They’ve substituted a price tag for a lofty ideal and we’ve allowed it. They’ve placed a bounty on the worth of motherhood and left those who are poor, those whose children are “too busy,” those whose children are caught up in wars and far from home, those whose children will never return, to suffer their losses. To feel less valued than luckier mothers. The trade-off cheapens us all.
“Happy Mother’s Day.” The cruelest words some women ever hear.