I was shopping earlier this week for a Mother’s Day card for my mother. It seems redundant to say that. But suddenly, everyone has become my mother.
As I flipped through the predominantly pink, flowery cards, I saw ones for mothers I didn’t even know I had.
Not only were there the expected cards in the “From Son,” “From Daughter,” and “From Husband” categories. There were also cards labeled “For Sister” and “For Niece.”
“I’d like to get one for my sister,” said my husband, whose mom died two years ago this month. “And for my niece.” He paused, thinking about that niece’s brothers — his nephews — who are married, with children. “Oh, yeah, and let’s get cards for my nephews’ wives, too,” he said.
I thought of my side of the family. I’ve got a sister and two sisters-in-law; three, if you count my younger brother’s ex-wife. Should I get all of them a Mother’s Day card, thanking them for my wonderful nieces and nephews?
Turns out I should, at least according to the floral delivery service, FTD. In a helpful but slightly guilt-inducing “Mother’s Day Infographic” on its website, it said a survey of its customers found that 57 percent of mothers have received gifts from non-family members.
“The modern family extends far beyond the people that we live with and see every day,” FTD.com said. “Mother’s Day is a way to recognize all of the love and hard work that goes into motherhood, regardless of relationship.”
Regardless of relationship? Isn’t the relationship the point?
Was this what Anna Jarvis intended when she created Mother’s Day?
The founding of Mother’s Day starts with Jarvis’ own mom, Ann Marie Reeves Jarvis, who had formed Mothers’ Day Work Clubs in several towns in her native West Virginia to teach mothers the basics of nursing and sanitation. It was Ann Marie’s wish, spoken aloud in front of her little girl, that someday, someone would found a memorial day for mothers “commemorating her for the matchless service she renders to humanity in every field of life. She is entitled to it.”
Dutiful daughter that she was, Anna Jarvis took up that challenge.
She organized a memorial service for her mom on May 12, 1907, near the second anniversary of Ann Marie’s death. She encouraged participants to wear white carnations and visit their moms, or write letters to them, to express their gratitude and appreciation. The following year, she extended the commemoration to the entire community of West Grafton, West Virginia, and Philadelphia, where her mother had died.
By 1914, through her efforts and the public support of notables like the great writer Mark Twain, Congress passed and President Woodrow Wilson signed a resolution declaring the second Sunday of May as the nationally recognized holiday of Mother’s Day.
But that’s not the happy ending of this sentimental story. Six years later, Jarvis rued the holiday that she had so tirelessly promoted. She hated the way florists, candy makers and greeting card companies had quickly capitalized on Mother’s Day and spent the rest of her life campaigning against it.
“A printed card means nothing except that you are too lazy to write to the woman who has done more for you than anyone in the world,” she said, according to her obituary in The New York Times. “And candy! You take a box to Mother — and then eat most of it yourself. A pretty sentiment!”
An article in the New York Times in 1923 reported that Jarvis accused members of the Associated Retail Confectioners of the United States at their convention in Philadelphia that year of “using a beautiful idea as a means of profiteering,” and she demanded that they cease and desist.
So, yes, I imagine Anna Jarvis, who never married and never had any children, would tear up those $5 a piece Mother’s Day cards labeled “For Niece” and “For Cousin,” with the same fiery spirit with which she reportedly tried to stop flower deliveries. For isn’t this extension of Mother’s Day cards to all the mothers I know a way to increase retail sales?
But I bet Jarvis’ mother would actually approve. Ann Marie Reeves Jarvis devoted time and energy supporting other mothers. The wish she expressed was for a day to thank moms everywhere for their “matchless service to humanity.”
In the spirit of our times, of the Mother’s Day that is, I’m sending my mom a card and flowers. FTD.com’s survey said 76 percent of mothers want flowers on Mother’s Day.
In honor of Ann Marie Reeves Jarvis, I’m going to acknowledge my other mothers, my sister and in-laws and nieces and nieces-in-law.
But in solidarity with the founder of Mother’s Day, Anna Jarvis, I won’t send them cards, or flowers. I’ll call them instead. And I’ll set aside the money I’ve saved. Father’s Day is just seven weeks away.
Reach Amy Eddings at 567-242-0379 or on Twitter, @lima_eddings.