By Shelley Murphy
Last Sunday we saluted mothers, or as we are otherwise known, the unpaid laborers who love unconditionally.
On Mother’s Day, moms are typically treated to beautiful buffet brunches with savory snacks and presented with pretty packages topped with bows. The second Sunday in May is one of the most profitable holidays on the calendar and Anna Jarvis’s greatest regret.
Jarvis, the women credited with founding Mother’s Day in the United States, never married nor had any children. Inspired by her mother Ann Reeves Jarvis, who started Mother’s Day Work Clubs to teach women how to care for their children, Anna sought to establish a day to honor her mother and commemorate all mothers.
After her mother’s death, Anna organized the first Mother’s Day observance in May 1908 in West Virginia. Anna’s determination to see the day recognized nationwide never wavered and she continued her quest.
She started letter-writing campaigns and lobbying state governors to declare the second Sunday of May—the Sunday nearest the date of her mother’s death—a nationally observed holiday. On May 9, 1914, President Woodrow Wilson issued a proclamation declaring Mother’s Day a national holiday.
But by 1924, after working years to establish the holiday commemorating mothers, Anna grew to regret her efforts. She detested the commercialization of Mother’s Day with card companies and flower shops cashing in on the day. Anna spent the rest of her life planning boycotts and writing petitions to rescind the holiday before dying in 1948 at the age of 84.
Anna would be furious to learn that last year, according to the National Retail Federation, shoppers spent a record $23.6 billion on Mother’s Day gifts such as brunches, jewelry, flowers and cards.
This May marks 23 Mother’s Day observations held in my honor. My family struggled for years to find an annual holiday tradition the four of us could enjoy celebrating together.
As a new mom, I thought what could be better than taking my two toddler boys to a delicious buffet brunch? The answer: a root canal. Realizing firsthand that Mother’s Day is the most popular day to dine out, my kids and husband tried serving up home-cooked meals, but that led to me cleaning messy, cluttered kitchens.
It took time, but we established our Mother’s Day tradition. When our boys were starting middle school, we began celebrating the day at Angel Stadium. Yes, it was my idea. I willingly traded tasty brunches for stale peanuts. And our plan works great, if the Angels are scheduled to play in Anaheim on Mother’s Day.
One May, we found ourselves without a team in town to cheer, I improvised and planned a quick weekend getaway. That Saturday we checked into a hotel about an hour’s drive from home.
While unpacking and preparing for our dinner reservation, my two pre-teen boys began building forts with hotel furniture. Of course, I told them to stop and of course they didn’t listen. Soon came the cry, “Owwwww, my arm!”
My older son held his limb as I examined his arm and declared him fit for dinner. Later that night, before crawling into his hotel bed my son said his arm still hurt, I took another look and gave him Tylenol.
Mother’s Day morning I woke early, crept to my sleeping son’s side and instantly regretted my prior diagnosis and procrastination. My older son and I spent Mother’s Day morning in the emergency room where doctors and x-rays confirmed my son’s broken arm.
This past Sunday the Angels played baseball in Anaheim, and I spent the day attending the game with my husband and Facetiming with both of my boys. As expected, my older son once again teased me about our memorable morning spent in the emergency room that second Sunday in May.
Years later, I still regret my Mother’s Day decision to delay my son’s treatment. But one decision I have never once regretted is being my boys’ mom.
Shelley Murphy has lived in San Clemente with her husband for the past 18 years, where she raised her two sons. She’s a freelance writer and has been a contributor to the San Clemente Times since 2006.