The creative force behind the American version of Mother's Day, Anna Jarvis, first began lobbying in favor of declaring a national holiday to honor mothers in 1908. In 1914, her efforts finally met with success; sadly, by 1920, she had become disillusioned with the rapidly burgeoning commercialization of Mother's Day, and actually reversed course, arguing for her own holiday's repeal. Needless-to-say, in this second effort, she was disappointed; and that, in my view, is probably not a bad thing.
Certainly, it is easy to poke fun at an annual holiday that has become, for many in the United States, a bonanza for greeting card companies, florists, candy makers, and restaurants; yet, for many American families, Mother's Day can, and often is, much, much more. I know that it is for me. And now that I have reached a point in my life at which I have considerably fewer years ahead of me than behind me, this one day in the year has taken on a personal significance that it never had when I was young. In this, I suspect that I am not alone. That being said, the few paragraphs that follow are intended to present a brief exposition on the meaning that Mother's Day now holds for me.
A Heartfelt Salute to America’s Military Mothers, Past, Present and FutureWhen it comes to the origins and background of this peculiarly wide-spread, if oddly ill-defined, holiday, I really have little to say that hasn't already been said by others many times before. Nonetheless, the nearness of this year's Mothers' Day here in the United States — besides evoking, for many of us, people and times long past — does provide me with the opportunity to post one of my all-time favorite Norman Rockwell illustrations. Call me sentimental, but I have a special fondness for this simple, if somewhat old-fashioned image, because it reminds me of my own experience when I came home, after my first year in Vietnam, on a 30-day special leave. I can still remember, almost like it was yesterday, a much younger version of me, still in my "dress greens" (having flown in earlier that evening) sitting, for hours, at the kitchen table with my mother. There the two of us sat — long after the rest of the family had gone to bed — drinking cup after cup of coffee and talking quietly about the trivial, commonplace occurrences that had colored the lives of my friends and family during the year that I had been deployed half-way around the world. To this day, that long, utterly inconsequential chat still remains one of my favorite memories of my mother.
|Home for Thanksgiving, |
Nov 24 1945 by Norman Rockwell
Being both impossibly young and impossibly ignorant, it didn’t occur to me when I was home on leave, that mine was actually my mother’s third war; that she had met and married my father — a Navy corpsman who served in the Pacific — during World War II, and that, with two small children to tend to, she had seen him recalled to active duty a few years later during the Korean War. Looking back, I cannot remember a single instance in which my mother ever complained about the hardships brought about by my father’s military service; nor, in my own case, can I recall a single word of recrimination from her when she learned that I would be going back to Southeast Asia for another tour at the end of my leave. Only many years later, after my mother had passed away, did I learn from my sister about the constant worry and, even more painful to me now, the dread with which my mother greeted every unfamiliar car that pulled into our driveway, or every unexpected knock on the front door during the whole of the time that I was overseas.
Nowadays, of course, only a small number of our fellow citizens actually serve in the armed forces and, for that reason, it is easy for most of us to put out of our minds the wives and mothers that those in uniform leave behind when they go into harm’s way. On this Mother's Day, however, I enjoin all of my readers to remember, along with their own mothers, those others who day-by-day wait stoically for their husbands and sons, and now their daughters, to come safely home. And while other Americans may seldom think of it that way, theirs, quite possibly, is the hardest wartime job of all.