mother's day flowers

For Openers: On Mother’s Day

Rochel Burstyn

Rochel Burstyn

Have you ever wondered who thought up Mother’s Day? I’d always assumed it was invented by Hallmark, but I looked it up and turns out, surprise, surprise, it wasn’t.

In the U.S, credit goes to a woman (of course …) by the name of Anna Jarvis. In 1858, when she was pregnant with her sixth child (out of 11, or 13, depending on which history book you’re reading), she initiated Mother’s Day Work Clubs, which banded women together to help fix the problems of the day, like disease and infant mortality. She was also a staunch advocator for peace, encouraging her club members to take care of soldiers from both sides during the Civil War.

Mother's Day flowers

She was especially known for always honoring, empowering and helping mothers.

On her first yartzheit, her daughter Anna held a memorial service for her mother and made the annual memorial service a little bigger each year. Eventually, she petitioned Washington to make Mother’s Day an official yom tov and, in 1914, she succeeded.

The funny thing, though, is that Mother’s Day is kind of like dynamite, and I don’t mean because of family dynamics or because the wrong gifts can cause explosions. (“Why’d you buy me soap and perfume? Are you implying I smell bad?”) In the end, Anna Jarvis saw how commercialized Mother’s Day had become and she ended up regretting her invention … kind of like Alfred Nobel who invented dynamite  …

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Apparently, Jarvis had envisioned a rather tame day of folks wearing white carnations, and when she saw how florists, candy companies, card companies, jewelry shops, gift shops, etc., were capitalizing on Mother’s Day, she was horrified and begged people not to participate. For the rest of her life, Jarvis tried to “undo” Mother’s Day and spent almost all her money on legal fees attempting to sue anyone who used and profited from the words “Mother’s Day.”

Unfortunately for her, all that money went down the drain. Mother’s Day is here to stay, with Americans spending over $21.4 billion annually on Mother’s Day celebrations and gifts.

My first memory of Mother’s Day is asking my mother for money so I could buy her something at the Mother’s Day Bazaar at school. My mother refused. She was never a fan of this mishegoss and staunchly insisted that “Every day is Mother’s Day!”

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The older I get the more I agree. The thing is that the more money a gift costs, the more forgettable it sometimes is. The best things in life are free, like uninterrupted sleep, someone else doing the laundry or a sincere hand-written card.

Since I’ve become a mother, my favorite Mother’s Day memories include a sticky-faced child holding out a handful of freshly plucked weeds, eyes aglow and a funky handmade macaroni necklace I received from my then 5-year-old, which I told him was so beautiful, I would wear at his chuppah (which might explain why he hasn’t made me anything else since).

But on the other hand, mothers do so much every day of their lives for everyone around them that one day really does not do us justice. Who cares about the commercialism? It’s almost understated — I mean, bring on the parades! The marching bands, baton twirlers, trumpeting elephants!

Whether you celebrate or don’t … for everyone who is a mother, has a mother or knows a mother: Have a great day! A great week! Month! Year! You rock!

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