Mother’s Day

by Angeliska on May 13, 2007

Mother’s Day is historically hard in general, for anyone whose mother is dead. It just feels like a holiday designed to remind you of an absence, if that’s the case – it is in mine. I know a lot of people assume it to be another cheapened, schmalzy Hallmark holiday, invented to sell crappy cards and flowers. The reality is far more interesting and more apt in these dark and troubling times: Mother’s Day was first proclaimed around 1870 in Boston by Julia Ward Howe, who wrote the “Mother’s Day Proclamation”, as a call for pacifism and disarmament by women. The original Mother’s Day Proclamation was as follows:

Arise, all women who have hearts,
whether your baptism be that of water or of tears!
Say firmly:
“We will not have great questions decided by irrelevant agencies,
Our husbands will not come to us, reeking with carnage,
For caresses and applause.
Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn
All that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience.
We, the women of one country,
Will be too tender of those of another country
To allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs.”
From the voice of a devastated Earth a voice goes up with
Our own. It says: “Disarm! Disarm!
The sword of murder is not the balance of justice.”
Blood does not wipe out dishonor,
Nor violence indicate possession.
As men have often forsaken the plough and the anvil
At the summons of war,
Let women now leave all that may be left of home
For a great and earnest day of counsel.
Let them meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead.
Let them solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means
Whereby the great human family can live in peace, man as the brother of man,
Each bearing after his own time the sacred impress, not of Caesar,
But of God -
In the name of womanhood and humanity, I earnestly ask
That a general congress of women without limit of nationality,
May be appointed and held at someplace deemed most convenient
And the earliest period consistent with its objects,
To promote the alliance of the different nationalities,
The amicable settlement of international questions,
The great and general interests of peace.

Early “Mother’s Day” was mostly marked by women’s peace groups. A common early activity was the meeting of groups of mothers whose sons had fought or died on opposite sides of the American Civil War. As the custom of Mother’s Day spread, the emphasis shifted from the pacifism and reform movements to a general appreciation of mothers. Tradition calls for the wearing of roses or carnations on Mother’s Day — a red one if one’s mother is alive, and white if she has died.

This is my stepmom, Kari and my dad on their wedding day. Look how happy they are! They had a traditional Cherokee wedding, wearing clothes that she sewed herself. She had the unfortunate task of helping to raise me through my thorniest and most difficult years. I love her very much and have much to be grateful to her for. She is the most mothering person I know, actually. She wanted so much to be that for me when I was a damaged little savage who instead put up my hackles and hissed like a little beast. I wish I’d been less afraid of that love, because she is such an amazing lady. She is and artist and musician and advisor and social worker. She is very magical and loving and encouraging to me, and I am very lucky and thankful that she is in my life.

I had an incredible experience recently – the kind where a string of synchronicities leads you to a series of startling revelations. I came here specifically for this knowledge. I ventured out to a housewarming at the abode of dearest Miss Patience and Mr. Pipkin. Almost immediately, I was drawn into conversation with a very interesting lady who seemed very special and familiar to me. Our talk turned to jewelry, and the construction of it – she exhorted me with strong cautionary tales of dear friends of hers who had died of cancer from improper ventilation and handling of lead solder. I mentioned that my mother had made jewelry, and died of cancer. We spoke of parental resemblances as well, and of childhood things – before we drifted into another conversation with our hosts of how all of us knew each other… This was a tale strung with coincidences like seed pearls: stories of love and wooing with prisms damaged a flood – those same crystals that Patience sent to me to cheer me after the flood in New Orleans. They had come from the crystal shop here (an amazing place) that was owned by the woman I had been talking to earlier. I’m putting all this into such a tiny nutshell, for your convenience and brevity, because I swear – there’s just no way to convey the extreme uncanniness. This same shop had employed my hosts at various times, as well as – oddly enough, my mother.

I remember her stringing austrian crystal necklaces in her bedroom, relishing the rich colors and glitter of them. I mentioned this, and the lady said “What was her name?” When I told her she embraced me, crying “Why, you’re that little girl! You’re Maggie’s daughter!” She told me she had wondered about me for years after my mother died, and she lost touch with my dad. She told me things about my mother that I have been waiting two decades to hear. What she imparted to me in thirty minutes did more healing than years of therapy ever could. She used to drive my mom to chemo(listen to CHEMO LIMO by Regina Spektor ten times in a row if you want to know what that sounds/feels like.)

She described talking with my mother about me, about how she felt about leaving me, crying and crying in the living room and me off somewhere playing quietly, stoically. She said knew I’d be strong. She told me that my mother had visions of the Virgin Mary appearing in her hospital room before she died, that filled her with immense peacefulness, and the lingering smell of roses. She described my mother’s way of speaking, her intensity and Texas twang, talking about architecture and the way attending university changed her life when she was just a little hillbilly. She told me about how she carried herself, her style, her way of playing fiddle with her whole body. I was so thankful for the clarity of her memories, for that moment where she could share all those important things with me. I needed to know so badly these simple, obvious things that I never knew:

That she loved me, and didn’t want to leave me.
That she fought so hard to live.
That she didn’t want to die.
That she worried about what
would happen to me after she did.

It’s terrible that I didn’t know
those things, but I really didn’t.
I think I do now.
I miss her so much
it hurts to even write it.

3 comments

[...] but in the meantime- I give you from the bee-log archive: thoughts from Mother’s Days past: Mother’s Day and Todo Sobre Mi [...]

by Angeliska Gazette › Corazones quebrados y perros ciegos on May 10, 2009 at 3:28 am. #

this is an impossibly wonderful gift. i am so happy you found this woman. and a piece of your mother.

by Brett on May 12, 2014 at 5:16 am. #

[…] ☾ MATRESCENCE ☾ FLEDGLING HEART ☾ MOTHER’S DAY […]

by ON SELF MOTHERING « Angeliska Gazette on May 12, 2018 at 8:34 pm. #

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