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Celebrating Mother’s Day is like giving a great teacher an apple -- the tribute is so inordinately puny that it’s almost an insult. Consider other inspirations for an annual day of notice: a geographically-challenged explorer, administrative assistants and a groundhog. (No offense to administrative assistants).
Where did the whole Mother’s Day idea come from? It depends how far back you want to go. The Greeks honored Rhea, the Mother of the Gods, who I hear often grounded Zeus for staying out all night with his pals throwing thunderbolts at passing chariots. In the 1600's, England celebrated "Mothering Sunday" on the fourth Sunday of Lent. (I guess the idea was if God can take that day off, so can moms.) In 1907, American Ana Jarvis started the first U.S. "Mother's Day" campaign, suggesting it be on the second Sunday in May -- the anniversary of her own mother's death. (Seven years later, President Woodrow Wilson made it a national holiday. Rumor has it Woody's mother told him afterwards, "This doesn't mean you can stop calling me.”)
The idea that an entire year’s worth of appreciation can be captured in one day, one card or one gift is realistic only in sitcoms and Hallmark stores. Without moms, we'd be sweater-less on cold mornings, out of clean underwear for most of our adolescence, and looking only one way before crossing the street.
But beyond the myriad responsibilities of the Mommy job is something more important: love. Moms love more and better than anyone. Loving is the very first, very best and very last thing moms do. Don’t go looking these stats up on Wikipedia -- if you’ve ever known or had a mom (you know who you are!), you know it’s true.
Of course, I’m not suggesting we spend all of our time revering moms -- we do have to watch American Idol sometimes. But Mother’s Day should be a symbol of continuous appreciation, not the containment of all of it. And if Mom’s job #1 is to love, it’s obvious what gift we should be returning in kind (Hint: It’s not at Walmart).
Joel Schwartzberg is a nationally-published essayist, and author of the award-winning collection The 40-Year-Old Version.