Mother's Day was originally established in the United States to honor the mothers of war casualties — to honor and give solace to the women whose sons had given their last full measure of devotion in battle. Julia Ward Howe, who wrote The Battle Hymn of the Republic, first bruited the holiday, and wished it to be called the Mothers’ Day for Peace. She wanted for the day to be a call to prayer for no more bloodshed in war. Our roots are very far from our flowers.
Potted anthurium was on sale at Wal-Mart yesterday. My mother would have delighted in the whimsy of that; she had a talent for finding diamonds in the dirt.
Mom adored anthurium, although I never fathomed why. Their obscene red single petal with the long stamen sticking out like a … well, let’s say like a tongue … never charmed me the way other tropical plants do. My taste runs to fragrance; to bird-of-paradise, jasmine, and Hawaiian ginger, but Mom always requested vivid, unscented anthurium.
Back in the days when I had much more disposable income than I do now, I air-freighted a couple dozen freshly picked anthuriums to her from Honolulu. I am ashamed to recall what American Express charged me for that adventure. I used to send anthurium arrangements to my mother for Christmas, on her birthday; one time I ordered a dwarf anthurium plant for Mother’s Day. I laid silk ones on her headstone last summer, on her birthday.
I think of her; of her flamboyance combined with her earthiness, whenever I see the bright red of anthurium blossoms. And because my home was built the year she was born, and because I think of her love for these unusual, whimsical flowers … I bought anthurium on sale at Wal-Mart, yesterday.
Two other women, mother and daughter, Ann Marie Reeves Jarvis and Anna Jarvis, also worked with women and veterans of the Civil War in rebuilding and healing the country after wartime. Anna Jarvis eventually succeeded in establishing Mothers’ Day as a national holiday. President Woodrow Wilson signed the proclamation setting aside the second Sunday in May to honor Mothers in 1914. By the 1920s, however, Anna Jarvis became a vocal opponent of the commercialization of the Mothers’ Day holiday.
Americans being Americans; we overdo everything, including Mother's Day. It’s a BIG deal for retail sales and, at the department store where I work there’s actually a blackout on time off in the two weeks leading up to the holiday. Restaurants lay on fabulous brunches, and theaters have special matinee shows; spas offer specials for Mom. Everybody gets in on the commercial act.
My mother loved all of it — as well as the anthurium air-freighted from Hawaii — but I always felt those things weren’t the real spirit of the relationship. She has been gone now for six years, and I no longer need to participate in the Mother's Day excesses; I don’t miss them. But I do miss her.
Appreciate your mothers while they are with you.