The nostalgia of Mother’s Day

May 08, 2022
So many memories, so much love. Source: Getty

Mother’s Day all started way back in the early 1900s. As a way to honour her own mother, Anna Jarvis of Philadelphia established the first Mother’s Day in the form of a Memorial Service in 1907 for her own mother who had been a great organiser of Women’s groups built around health and friendship.

Within five years it had become a national day to honour all mothers on the second Sunday in May. The white carnation was its symbol and I remember these being handed out to all the mothers who came to church on Mother’s Day morning.

In England, in the Middle Ages, the fourth Sunday in Lent (Laetare Sunday) was a day when people made a special effort to get to their Mother church. Families who were given this opportunity to get together started the gifting tradition and apprentices and servants, who had the day off, would bring their mums a special rich fruit cake called Simnel Cake complete with 11 balls of marzipan on the top representing Jesus’ apostles – Judas Iscariot’s infamous traitor’s kiss saw him left off in the ball stakes.

In the UK, this became known as Mothering Sunday regaining its popularity thanks to Constance Penswick-Smith who wanted to regenerate interest in it. The American Mother’s Day with its greater focus on Mothers rather than the original meaning helped gain the public’s approval. As with so many things born of innocence, commercialism has stepped in and we seem to have lost our way regarding the true reason for the special day.

In fact, Jarvis became so disillusioned with the result that she tried to abolish the day, even being arrested at one protest for disturbing the peace. She disgustedly said, “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.”

Mother’s Day still holds an important place in our family.

Just a few memories of my mum in bullet points:

  • Drafting patterns from the Enid Gilchrist books and sewing most of our clothes (and doll’s clothes and the odd fancy dress costume)
  • Cooking steak and kidney in the pressure cooker
  • Whipping Carnation Milk ‘til her arms ached’ to make us ice cream
  • Bottling whatever fruit was in season in her Vacola bottling kit
  • Making copious bottles of strawberry jam to raise money for the Scout Jamboree trip
  • Washing sheets and towels in the electric boiler
  • Weaving my long thick hair into plaits every morning for school
  • Setting her hair with the vicious metal wave clips with the sharp teeth
  • Laboriously wrapping my hair in strips of sheeting to make ringlets
  • Smelling of Oil of Ulan face cream
  • Playing the piano at home, at church (organ), for choir
  • Driving for Meals on Wheels
  • Serving on tuckshop at school
  • Kissing my hand with her red lipstick before she went to her night time Ladies’ Guild meeting
  • Arranging bunches of flowers we had in the garden for church and making them look amazing

So many memories, so much love.

Not everyone of course has had the blessing or memories of a wonderful mother to inspire their recognition of this day. However, Mother’s Day is not just for Mothers, it’s to honour and remember those amazing women who have had a special influence in your life, be it your Auntie or Gran, the lady next door who kept an eye on you, or the teacher who believed in you.

My mum turns 96 in a couple of weeks.

What do you give someone who doesn’t need or want anything, who is more than content with what she has? What do you give someone who has lived through a world war, playing the piano for troops stationed at Southport, her two older brothers doing their part in far flung countries, while her mum made camouflage nets in their kitchen? What do you give someone who has brought up two children now both in their 60s with their own children and grandchildren? What do you give someone who had 53 wonderful years with her soul mate who whisked her off on countless adventures around Australia?

What she loves is time … time with her family, time together, time to just sit and be part of it all. I think we can manage that … and maybe a chrysanthemum or two.

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