By Maureen Kalbus
Sheltering at home as May approaches, I am thinking about Mothers’ Day, for the second time this year! In the U.K., Ireland and some other countries, Mothers’ Day is celebrated on the fourth Sunday in Lent: this year it was March 14th. Mothering Sunday was the precursor to Mothers’ Day. From the sixteenth century it was a religious event, not connected to mothers at all! “Mothering” referred to the “Mother church” : the main church in a region. On the fourth Sunday in Lent, there would be special services for which people who were working away from home, returned. The pilgrimage was referred to as “going a mothering”. Lent’s eating restrictions were lifted for the day, consequently, in some areas, it was known as “Refreshment Sunday” or “Simnel Sunday”, as this was a favorite cake that was baked. Mothers’ Day grew from this origin, and became commercialized.
In my mother church in Belfast, a daffodil was given to each woman attending the service, celebrating those who had mothered, adoptive mothers, foster mothers, grandmothers, women who had been like a mother to children, or who would have made great mothers…
In the U.S.A., the second Sunday in May was set aside by President Woodrow Wilson, when in 1914, he declared it a national holiday, “as a public expression of love and reverence for the mothers of our country.” This followed the observation created by Anna Jarvis who in 1907 sought to honor her mother, Ann Jarvis. She was a peace activist who cared for wounded soldiers in the American Civil War. The idea gained momentum, in that by 1911, all states celebrated mothers. Hallmark started manufacturing cards in the 1920s, and materialism quickly developed. This was resented by Anna. Many countries have followed.
Internationally, mothers are celebrated on various dates: Russia, Vietnam and Afghanistan acknowledge them on International Women’s day; Bolivia on May 27th, when women fighting for independence in the Battle of La Coronilla, were killed by the Spanish Army; France on the last Sunday in May; Argentina on the third Sunday in October, “Dia de la Madre.”
I was a lucky wee girl to have had a wonderful mother, and for sixty years, Gretta Robinson was a gem. Once I was born, Mum gave up working outside the home, and focused on bringing up me, and then my brother Alan, and creating a warm, loving home environment. Being very bright and knowledgeable about any subject, she was a great help with homework, crosswords and quizzes! In her quiet, discreet way, she was the backbone of the family. Never panicking, always supportive, and good at squirreling away money so that we always had summer vacations, new clothes for each season and an open door for family and friends. Mum was a great listener. No matter what time of the day or night, she would put aside what she was working on to listen to whatever had happened in our day. She was the epitome of listening with her eyes. Mum was the fairest person I know. I could win a game of Scrabble, without being there! We used to play the game each Saturday. After I emigrated, she often would play a two handed game, one for me and the other for herself, and Dad would hear her say”Agh...she has won again!” From her mother, she inherited cooking and baking skills. Our home always smelled of home cooking, whether it be homemade chicken soup on a Friday night, or apple tarts hiding wrapped silver charms. When visitors came for supper, the meal in Ireland that follows dinner, the tiers on the tea trolley would groan with the variety of savoury and sweet delicacies. Fresh flowers from our garden always filled vases around the house. Mum was adept at sewing, making outfits for me on a treadle, then electric sewing machine, as I grew up. She was a brilliant embroiderer: her stitching was so perfect, you couldn’t tell the wrong side of a piece of work. If she wasn’t pouring a cup of tea, baking or sewing, she was reading or working on crossword puzzles. I believed she kept Hallmark in business, as she was constantly sending cards to mark anniversaries, births, illnesses, successes...Church was a central part of her life, not only attending services, but being actively involved in church organizations. When leaving a message on our answering machine, she would say “Just me. Mum.” She never was just Mum to me. Never a day passes that I don’t think of her, and talk to her.
At my Mum’s Funeral/Memorial Service, our Minister, Canon Noel Battye, suggested I read Proverbs 31 v 10 - 31: a wonderful testament to wives and mothers. In part:
“ How hard it is to find a capable wife! She is worth far more than jewels!...She is a hard worker, strong and industrious. She knows the value of everything she makes, and works late into the night...She is generous to the poor and needy...She is strong and respected, and not afraid of the future. She speaks with a gentle wisdom. She is always busy looking after her family’s needs. Her children show their appreciation, and her husband praises her. He says, “Many women are good wives, but you are the best of them all.”...Give her credit for all she does. She deserves the respect of everyone.”
In the Bible, numerous mothers are mentioned, the first being Eve, mother of Cain and Abel. [Gen. 4] Others who come to mind are Sarah/Isaac [Gen.21]; Rachel/Joseph and Benjamin [Gen.30 v 22]; Hannah/Samuel [1 Sam v 21]; Bethsheba /Solomon [2 Sam. v 12]; Elizabeth/ John the Baptist [Luke 1 v 57 - 80]; Mary/Jesus [Matt. 1 v 18 - 25]
All are unique individuals from very different backgrounds, but their diverse experiences of motherhood have been shared with mothers over the centuries.
Rudyard Kipling said “God could not be everywhere, and therefore He made mothers.”
Samuel Taylor Coleridge asserted that ”The love of a mother is the veil of a softer light between the heart and the heavenl