Put Them All Together, They Spell MOTHER
Mimi writes again. This time she takes on the highly emotional subject of Mother’s Day—with no reverence at all!
About three week ago, I set out to write a humorous little something about Mother’s Day. My original thought was to discuss some of the strange but wondrous gifts my friends and I have been given as moms or gave to their own moms.
For instance, I thought I might mention the bathrobe that made me look even more like Miss Piggy than I already did/do, or the gallon of purple bubble bath (no particular scent—just purple) that came complete with a rubber shark to play with in the tub. Good start, right? Well, that was the end, too. I started surveying my friends and discovered that Mother’s Day is the most emotionally fraught holiday of them all.
A woman named Anna Jarvis started a campaign in the early 20th century to create a national day for celebrating mothers as a memorial to her own mother. Her celebration day was accepted by 1914, but by the 1920’s Miss Jarvis was already disappointed with the commercial turn the day had taken. Mother’s Day (correct spelling is the ‘s) is now celebrated in almost every country. Most celebrate on the second Sunday in May, but mother-based celebrations occur all over the world and the calendar.
Both tradition and PR tell us how important moms are to their children. And since we all have a mother, a whole bunch of us (read for that: everyone) is held hostage to that notion. And since half of the world is women who have mothers, and might also, themselves, be mothers—well, you can begin to see the problem.
I was considering this and polling my friends about their gift and gifting experiences when I read a wise thought from Oscar Wilde, “Memory is the diary we all carry about with us.” Memory (also sometimes called baggage) informs everything we do—how we act and react, how we feel about the people in our lives and what feelings we carry over from one generation to the next.
For instance: my life-long friend, Betsy, admitted that her most vivid Mother’s Day gift memory was of giving her own mother a corsage and having her mother burst into tears. Aww. She was so touched (right?). Wrong. Out in West Texas where we grew up (and possibly in other places as well) there was a tradition of giving people flowers on Mother’s Day (usually at church). If your mother was yet living, you got a red rose; if not, a white one.
Betsy gave her mom a red corsage, and Mom burst into tears because HER mother was not living so it “should have been” white. Betsy pointed out that SHE had presented the flower to HER mother who was standing there in the living flesh (crying).
Note to self: Don’t give Mom a corsage. Maybe not even flowers, maybe not even a picture of one. And, sidebar: this was such an emotional and painful thing that my mother wouldn’t even go to church on Mother’s Day for fear of being forced to choose a flower. (Note to children: you may give me flowers—but something already cut, so I can’t kill it.)
Does this impact how Betsy feels about Mother’s Day flowers? I was too scared to ask. It sounds like a lead-up to a “you can’t win for losing” piece. Moms—can’t please ‘em.
Honestly, I though there was humor to be mined here. As the mother of a pre-school teacher, I have had more than my share of pre-school looking gifts. That’s because I often get either the proto-type or one made especially for me by my child (the teacher). This can be OK—I got a precious plate with my grandson’s picture on it. It can be funny or even sad (flower pots with and without flowers—see above).
This is all Anna Jarvis’ fault. She was unclear as to the rules. So in the interest of our blog doing a public service, I shall mention some areas that need clearing up and try to do just that.
Q: Who gets Mother’s Day gifts?
Mimi’s Answer: Mothers. But everyone should buy his or her own mom her gift. Wives should not be responsible for mothers-in-law; husbands, either, for that matter.
Q: What about grandmas? Do grandchildren owe them gifts?
M’sA: As a grandmother myself, I think gifts from the grandchildren are just peachy. But, in my role as trusted public adviser, I will say grandchildren should make their own gifts for Grandma. Or parents can present Grandma with new pictures of little Precious. Store-bought gifts require breaking rule #1 above.
Q: Do daddies have to give their wives (otherwise known as the mommies) gifts?
M’s A: Depends on how old your children are, how troublesome, and how many there are. That guy with the nineteen kids—cough up big time, Buddy! Older, independent children? Dad can give mom a card and tell her they are both enjoying the fruits of what a good mom she was. (On Father’s Day, she can tell him the same thing.) Older, dependent children, living at home, Mom doing their wash again? Large gift—possibly one with a “proof” number on the label.
Q: What gifts are politically correct and safe? Is there a dollar limit?
M’s A: See discussion of memory/baggage above. If you know Mom has a “thing” about red roses, have the good sense to buy perfume or a gift card for a massage. This is a bad time for a new iron, a gallon of paint for the front porch (unless you are going to do the painting, Sonny Boy), or practical kitchen gadgets. (Unless Mom is a gourmet cook, uses an iron in a much-loved craft, or thinks painting the front door every year is fun—in which case, go for it.) My best advice is a “spoiling” gift that tells Mom you not only love her, you know her. You know she likes to get her nails done, likes to read, or is a secret Sudoku addict. But no mother wants her child/children to overspend on her behalf. A telephone call or a card with a heart-felt note is OK, too. Money never was meant to be the big deal—memory, acknowledgement—that’s the ticket. Write Mom about a time you know she did something special for you and how much that still means. Write a memory of being “her little girl” that will mean something to you both.
Q: Can a mom give her children a nudge or a gift list?
M’s A: NO!
Q: Is it OK if we ask her to decide where to eat out, what to do on Mother’s Day, etc.?
M’sA: What? No imagination? You’re a grownup already!
Q: Can Daddy and small children cook Mommy breakfast?
M’sA: If Daddy makes sure its edible and if they clean up. (No, really clean up.)
I hope this brief tutorial has assisted all and sundry to avoid the pitfalls of this wonderful dangerous up-coming holiday. Happy Mother’s Day to all! (But if you forgot, several countries celebrate next week—