I grew up mostly without Mother’s Day—I would say “Happy Mother’s Day” to my Mom, and I suppose I gave her a card some years, but it was clear, in the little microculture of our household, that Mother’s Day (and Father’s Day) were made-up Hallmark Holidays, and that we shouldn’t be participating in the commercialization of the family unit. Or picking a single day to express our respect and gratitude. We weren’t a big gift-giving family generally, to be clear, and my mother’s allergies meant that she didn’t really like having flowers in the house. My family unit was and is supportive and generally terrific, but we’re not much given to sentiment.
Later, I became aware that Mother’s Day was actively difficult for a lot of people, whether it was because they felt pressured to express emotions they did not feel, or because they wanted to express deeply-felt emotions to someone who was absent, or for a variety of other issues. I also became more aware that a lot of people experienced it as a mildly irritating obligation, too.
I also eventually learned about Anna Jarvis, whose tireless efforts to create a national day to honor mothers were ultimately successful, and whose subsequent tireless efforts to abolish Mother’s Day were ultimately unsuccessful. The history of the official Mother’s Day is an appallingly, amazingly American story of good intentions and capitalism and race and war and… oh, it’s just America, is what it is, for good and ill.
But yesterday what I was thinking about was that being on-line, and particularly being on social networks (and particularly being on that particular one that is so ubiquitous among America’s great middle-aged) made it difficult to dismiss Mother’s Day as a Bad Idea. Yes, it’s awful for a lot of people and probably bad for the country as a whole (if good for the economics of brunch places, and I do like brunch), but there’s also an awful lot of people who have delightful days with their offspring and/or parents, and an awful lot of people who find it an occasion for solace or beauty or love. Or hope. Or community. Or whatever… it’s a mess, is what it is, but it’s a mess that really does bring an awful lot of joy to an awful lot of people.
Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,