Mother’s May days

Posted on May 8, 2015. Filed under: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette Columns | Tags: , , |

The month of May and mothers have been linked for over a century now, but the calendar connection is stronger than just this coming Sunday’s special occasion.

Starting the month by honoring the matron of the most enduring nursery rhymes isn’t a bad idea, though as a minor holiday Mother Goose Day (May 1) remains relatively obscure, even after 28 years.

Author Gloria T. Delamar established the celebratory date in 1987, when she also founded the Mother Goose Society, which she calls a concept rather than a dues-paying membership organization.

Reading to small children is both worthwhile and enjoyable, and The Real Mother Goose book is the perfect gift for young mothers.

Originally published in 1916, the book’s distinctive cover features a black and white checked border and Blanche Fisher Wright’s delightful illustration of a bespectacled old woman riding a goose with the reins in one hand and a basket containing a baby in the other.

For generations this classic has charmed, enchanted and enthralled untold throngs of toddlers, with some 4 million copies sold and a No. 1 ranking on Amazon.com in nursery rhyme books and No. 55 overall in children’s classics.

Affordable (under $10) and incomparable, it’s a volume that belongs in every mother’s home.

Yesterday (May 7) was the official National Day of Prayer, and as every mother knows, there can never be too many invocations and supplications expended heavenward for children.

Created in 1952, the annual observance pays homage to the first Continental Congress’ call for a day of National Prayer and Fasting in 1775, which would have been executed as vigorously by faithful founding mothers as fathers, if not more so.

Visions of bowed-head moms with clasped hands at their children’s bedside are as common as sunsets. Happy are youngsters indeed who know the security of a praying mother.

Rudyard Kipling rhymed it this way: “If I were damned of body and soul, I know whose prayers would make me whole, Mother o’ mine …”

In addition to whatever flowers, phone calls, candy and other gifts mothers will receive on Sunday, most would welcome prayers as well.

It also shouldn’t be forgotten that Mother’s Day itself had its genesis in a prayer, when young Anna Jarvis—the tireless advocate responsible for the modern holiday—heard her mother, Ann Reeves Jarvis, close a Sunday School lesson in 1876 with this plea: “I hope and pray that someone, sometime, will found a memorial mothers day commemorating her for the matchless service she renders to humanity in every field of life. She is entitled to it.”

May flowers are the proverbial product of March winds and April showers, and Mother Nature seems to display her finest corsages on the occasion and season commemorating our mortal mothers.

Anna Jarvis’ mother had died on May 9, and so when Anna held the first official memorial ceremony she chose May 10, 1908.

Six persistent years later, Anna achieved her dream when President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed Mother’s Day a national holiday on May 9, 1914, enshrining it with the natural beauty of the late spring month.

Leave it to Emily Dickinson to deftly describe “Nature, the gentlest mother” as “impatient of no child” and to also ably ascribe her human personification:

“When all the children sleep/She turns as long away/As will suffice to light her lamps/Then bending from the sky/With infinite affection/And infiniter care,/Her golden finger on her lip,/Wills silence everywhere.”

Even Memorial Day, which anchors the end of May, is rooted in the mournful expression of mothers. It descends from “Decoration Day” during which women adorned the graves of fallen Civil War soldiers with flowers.

Thus May abounds with tributes to mothers and motherhood, though the grandest dame in the calendar is the eponymous holiday this Sunday.

Americans will spend $20 billion honoring their mothers—and it’s worth remembering that Mother’s Day itself was conceived as a personal commemoration: It is intended to be an individual celebration of your mother, not all 82 million U.S. mothers collectively.

It’s considered the peak long-distance calling day of the year and the second-largest gift-giving holiday. Since everyone has a mom, it’s almost universally celebrated—96 percent of Americans participate in some sort of Mother’s Day activity.

As technological fate would have it, a psychology professor posted “A Found Poem for Mother’s Day” on her blog on Monday, which she discovered while using Google.

Google has an autocomplete function that attempts to finish a search string. So when University of California at Berkeley professor Tania Lombrozo typed in “Motherhood is” she saw the following autocorrect suggestions (in bold) pop up in Google’s pull-down menu:

Motherhood is hard

Motherhood is lonely

Motherhood is a choice

Motherhood is magical

Not wanting to jump the gun, but curious, I typed “Fatherhood is” in a Google search field.

The result was less poetic, though still inspiring:

Fatherhood is sacred

Fatherhood is it for me

Fatherhood is hard

Shelve that thought for another month, however.

This Sunday, find a way to make your mother’s day.

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