In an ironic twist of fate, Anna Jarvis, the woman who invented Mother’s Day in 1907, spent most of her life trying to abolish the holiday after florists, card makers and candy manufacturers seized on the potential for turning sentiment into profit. Jarvis (as detailed in an April 22 FYI story by my colleague Tim Engle) was outspoken in saying that buying a card or handing over a box of chocolates was a poor substitute for a heartfelt, handwritten note.
I share Jarvis’ distaste for store-bought gifts, although I adored getting handmade cards and tangled fistfuls of pansies or dandelions pulled out of the yard when the kids were little.
But, unlike Jarvis, I desire no declarations of gratitude from my children, now in college. Nothing they could say or text on the spot — and Mother’s Day and Father’s Day put us all on the spot — could outshine the spontaneous quotes from our life together that are etched on my heart.
My favorite utterances did not contain “love” or “mom.” Those are pretty generic. If your kindergartener doesn’t think you are the greatest, something is seriously wrong.
The comments I treasured were the ones that gave me glimpses into their unfurling, singular personalities.
“Yeah, what do I need you guys for?” That was my 21/2-year-old daughter’s response when she appeared at the breakfast table one morning completely dressed, including socks, shoes and hat, and I said, “Wow! You got dressed all by yourself.” The casual confidence and self-sufficiency of my pre-preschooler slapped a proud grin on my face that I could not wipe off all day.
“This flower looks like Marge Simpson’s hair.” That was my 6-year-old son breaking off a lavender blossom in the garden. I had to do some investigating to learn who this Marge Simpson was, as I don’t watch television, but I loved the abstract way he saw the world, always.
It’s fitting that Jarvis decided motherhood should be commemorated the second Sunday in May, in the sweet spot of spring and peak gardening season.
I have always loved gardening for the same reason I love being a mother. Gardening is all about procreation, nurturing and then sitting back in amazement, watching things grow and blossom. So is parenting.
Just as no two flowers or tomatoes are exactly alike, even if they came from the same seeds and grew in the same soil, you never know what kind of humans your children are going to grow into. It’s thrilling to see the traits they take on, especially the ones that can’t be accounted for by the gene pool or your intentional attempts at molding them.
And so even though all my memories of the kids are special, the images I see first when I lean back and close my eyes and think of them are of the toddler ready to make her way in the world in her straw hat and her lime-green Roos and the first-grader who saw cartoon characters in flowers.