Mother’s Day: Make It Count

Special to The Mountain Enterprise By Maggie Van Ostrand

Brunch, bouquets, and bling on Mother’s Day are nice, but “Please don’t buy me anything,” is my anti-rallying cry. However, TV commercials always win out, and, consequently, closets of unworn bathrobes grow fuller every year.

In an effort to dissuade my kids from commercialism (“How about just writing me a mushy note?” falls on deaf ears), I sought facts to combat their guilt-generated generosity.

Mother’s Day actually started in the 1850s when a West Virginia woman, Ann Marie Reeves Jarvis, recruited mothers to help combat tuberculosis and childhood diseases, a movement which then, in 1861, segued into helping both Union and Confederate soldiers, injured or ill, during the Civil War. That eventually turned into mothers taking active political roles in promoting peace. True bipartisanship. After she passed away, it was her daughter, Miss Anna Jarvis, who got Woodrow Wilson to make Mother’s Day a national holiday in 1908. Is it an accidental irony that Wilson proclaimed Sundays for this holiday? But never mind that. It didn’t take very long to become exploited for profit; last year, Americans spent $20 Billion on Mother’s Day gifts, according to the National Retail Federation. A far cry from the selfless work of Mrs.
Jarvis, and the recognition sought for her by her daughter.

Ironically, Miss Jarvis, the daughter, spent the rest of her life trying to de-commercialize Mother’s Day and stop what had been done to exploit the original intent. She died in a sanitorium, broke, delirious and alone.

Instead of buying me anything, I’m asking my children to volunteer, if only for the day, at a hospital, or animal rescue organization, or the Salvation Army helping to feed the poor (even if it isn’t Thanksgiving). Or donate the money they would’ve spent on me to a worthy cause.

They’re grown up now. They’ve already given me the best gift in the world: they both grew up to be loving parents, fine citizens, and are active in their communities. Now, if only Miss Jarvis were still alive, I’d visit her in the asylum; I’m sure my kids wouldn’t mind if I brought her some of those pretty, unworn bathrobes from my closet.

Photo captions:

Mother Ann Marie Jarvis

Daughter Anna Jarvis

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This is part of the May 12, 2017 online edition of The Mountain Enterprise.

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