Mother’s Day

12 May

Niece Tulips

Mother’s Day was never a day that concerned me much. I always bought my mother a gift, usually handmade when I was a child. The receiving of the gift seemed to give her pleasure and I received pleasure from watching her open it. I only remember one bad Mother’s Day–I had wrapped myself up in some sewing project in my bedroom that involved blue and white material and hadn’t managed to get it done on time. She cried, which made me feel guilty, and I showed her what I had finished so far, which made her happier. I hadn’t realized quite how special the day was to her. Her birthday, April 11, and Mother’s Day, usually in May, fell close to one another, causing me some anxiety, but it wasn’t major.

It also had no religious significance, Christian or otherwise, nor did it have any pagan influences, or ritual sacrifices. Unlike Christmas, with its Virgin Birth (beginning of Christianity) and tall pine tree (pagan influence–Thor), or Easter (Resurrection), with its open tomb (the most significant symbol of Christianity) and bunny (pagan influence-symbol of fertility), Mother’s Day has always had a bit of the Hallmark quality to it, which is not entirely bad; mothers do deserve appreciation after all. Inaugurated by Anna Jarvis in 1910 in the state of West Virginia and made official by Woodrow Wilson in 1914 (Wikipedia), it is a sweetly sentimental holiday. The ritualistic sacrifices of the Celts with their Yule logs on the Winter Solstice and the sacrifice of the lambs on Easter add a richness to the cultural aspects of Christmas and Easter that is simply not present on Mother’s Day.

Around the time I turned fifty, I started to realize that it was a less benign holiday than I had thought. The reason for this is that I was starting to appreciate the fact that I wasn’t going to be a mother, and for those of us who will never be mothers that can be a painful understanding to come to. I don’t feel that I need to stridently attack other people like the patron my friend, Scott, wished a happy Mother’s Day, who, in turn, announced to the restaurant, “I am barren.” My situation of being without a child, however, is not something I ever wished for. I have been pregnant in the past and I did plan to have at least one child, but that is a story for another day. I had to work on my doctorate and then I had to plunge into teaching, having worked for two years washing dishes while I wrote my dissertation. I came to a certain point where it could no longer be a dream for me to have a child and the emphasis on motherhood and the constant reminders leading up to Mother’s Day are now often difficult for me.

Don’t misunderstand me. I enjoy the fact that I still have a mother to whom I can give gifts. I just ask for a little understanding of the fact that Mother’s Day is not only a tough day for those who have lost their mothers, but also for those of us who will never be mothers. This Mother’s Day my nieces gave me the tulips in the picture, and it meant the world to me.

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