Mother’s Day scam

My husband and son were away for the weekend at a soccer tournament in Michigan and my daughter was on a school-sponsored camping trip in Wisconsin. I spent the weekend engaged in an activity has run strongly though my maternal bloodline: gardening.

My mother has a phenomenal garden in which she works tirelessly and in which my wedding reception was held, oh so many years ago. Her mother (my grandmother), Leota, worked in her beautiful garden well into her 90s. My grandmother’s sister, Hazel, also had a fabulous garden that she worked until she could work it no more.

Although I toiled in my garden for this one weekend, the gardening gene has skipped my generation, or has at least skipped me. I am a fair-weather gardener at best. I put tremendous effort in for a few weekends, especially around this time of year. There is a narrow band in which I find conditions acceptable for gardening. Most of the time it is too cold, too wet, too hot, too humid, too mosquito-y….you get the idea. I’m a gardening wimp.

Yes, I love a beautiful garden. To sit in. To sip a glass of wine in. But to create? No, that is not what I am capable of.

The weather was perfect over this past weekend, right in my rather narrow sweet spot, and I worked gladly in the garden both days. I didn’t accomplish nearly as much as I hoped to but the effort was spectacular, if I do say so myself.

Pink carnation, but no pick-up truck

I went to early church Sunday morning, where I was given a lovely pink carnation. I located a teenager to take my place as a helper during Sunday school. Then I went home to watch Man City v. Arsenal. I put my carnation in a vase on the table next to my couch like a good mother. Then, because I was embodying my own mother this weekend, I watched the match while drinking tea and doing needlepoint. When things went badly I shouted heartily the strongest oath I could produce: “Oh, beans!”

I did indeed put my pink church-acquired carnation in a vase on a table next to the couch, but after that there are nothing but lies in the paragraph above. I hadn’t figured that I could feel excited about a match after seeing Leicester City holding the trophy Saturday with Champagne flying and fireworks shooting flames into the air, but this match got me going more than any other in recent weeks.

I  produced swearing most foul, shrieking, and moaning over the next two hours, happy that the kids were out of the house and unable to witness my reaction to one of the more stressful matches of the year. Mesut Ozil was injured and didn’t join the line-up. And Manchester City came out of the tunnel with their backsides aflame–nothing like that walk of the zombies they put on for Real Madrid last week–and when they scored a goal in 8 minutes, it looked like it was going to be one of those horrid Arsenal days. But Arsenal were able to score quickly after that first goal, a nice header by Olivier Giroud, his first goal in a long while, helped by some half-hearted Man City defending. Some of the spark went out of Man City, but they still seemed dominant. Man City got another goal after the half. Arsenal took plenty of time to equalize, a nice shift of the ball from an under-pressure Giroud onto the feet of Alexis Sanchez, who rifled it into the net.

And then with the score safely at 2-2, Arsene Wenger decided to just hold it. He’d seen what Manchester City had in their hearts and set about preserving the tie. All things considered that was the right thing to do. And, although it still looked like Arsenal could give the lead back, we managed to hang on.

We could finish anywhere from second to fifth place on Sunday, our last match of the season. At least third place is the hope. This would give automatic qualification to the Champions League next year. We need a win.

After the match was over, I got back out into the yard, and my thoughts turned back to Mother’s Day. Before they left, my husband had been hinting around all week about what I might like for Mother’s Day. My kids were also fretting about it, what for gifts, what to have for dinner, etc.

It’s such a scam. Although I greatly appreciate their appreciation, it’s so clear to me that I get so much more out of being a mother than I could ever give as a mother. When my kids were born, I was born. When my kids walked for the first time, so did I (twice!). And their first words gave me new voice. On and on it goes. They’ve brought me so much joy and meaning across so many years that it’s completely silly to also receive flowers and cards.

As I gardened, I wondered whether my feelings were only because the kids weren’t home and I was nostalgic with the house quiet and my ears full of my peaceful and contemplative On Being podcast as I gardened. But, no, when they came home and we had dinner, and they were laughing and bickering and telling me about their weekends? I was not lonely with them gone, but it is clear how full and rich my life is with them in it. Crazy rich and full.

While I was out in the car yesterday to procure mulch, I heard a report on NPR about Anna Jarvis, the successful advocate of Mother’s Day. The idea had been planted by her own mother, Ann Jarvis. Her mother envisioned it more as mothers’ advocacy of world peace.

anna jarvis
Anna Jarvis, probably before they ruined her idea. She still looks like she has hope.

In years following her mother’s death, 111 years ago today, Anna Jarvis waged an all-out campaign promoting Mother’s Day as a day of recognition, culminating in a memorial service in a West Virginia Methodist Episcopal church, to which Jarvis sent 500 white carnations.

Anna Jarvis’s efforts took on a life of their own, though, as florists and holiday card companies saw a fantastic opportunity to capitalize on this sentiment. A national holiday was established in 1914.

All was not well. Anna Jarvis was horrified by the quick commercialization of her idea. She thought it was horrible that mothers were receiving cards written by card companies and not from the hearts and pens of the children. She sought to have it discontinued, with the same fervor by which she advocated it in the first place.

She was rewarded for her troubles by a long stay in a sanitarium, paid for by the very companies that most profited from her idea. Let us hope they also sent flowers and cards.

The report on NPR noted that Anna Jarvis never married or had children, so I surmised that she didn’t understand the algorithm I had determined while gardening, Being Mom > Being Appreciated as Mom.

Today while I was trying to find out more about Anna Jarvis using (what else) Wikipedia, I saw this quote regarding the carnations she sent to that first memorial service.

Its whiteness is to symbolize the truth, purity and broad-charity of mother love; its fragrance, her memory, and her prayers. The carnation does not drop its petals, but hugs them to its heart as it dies, and so, too, mothers hug their children to their hearts, their mother love never dying.

Anna Jarvis may not have ever been a mother, and her actions may have produced the biggest scam on the planet, but she did understand. And she appreciated her mother anyway.

To my own Mother: I know your Mother’s Day secret, and I love you and appreciate you, anyway. If only I also had your love of gardening.

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