REPOST: This essay was originally posted May, 2010. Since that time, I’ve found my perceptions of Mother’s Day have shaped to reflect the true spirit of the day. I read this one myself from time to time to remind myself of the passion and the courage that originally fueled the real version of “Mother’s Day.”
I know it’s been a few days since the US celebrated its own particular brand of “mother’s day” but it still feels important to post about it.
I hate “mother’s day” as I think I expressed last year at this time. I know many of my friends and readers love it, have awesome days of pampering and what not but frankly I just get cranky. I never USED to be cranky…it was not until after I became a mother that this started. I always thought it was the shallow nature of this “day for mother’s” that was so openly sponsored by Hallmark. This idea that this ONE day of the year, a nice card or phone call and maybe some flowers could really fill this weirdly empty spot in me. It didn’t. Nothing was “enough” for me. I dunno. I’m cranky. I just am cranky sometimes.
I wonder if all along I knew there was more to it…and it turns out, there is.
Julia Ward Howe gives me my first real mother’s day this year…read her words, written to rouse the women of the civil war era, around a cause for justice, a clarion call for mothers to come together in the name of peace. Tired of seeing their boys killed and maimed, Julia began the first “mother’s day” in this country. It was not a day for “thanks, mom” cards or flowers or gifts or pedicures…it was a day to remember their lost sons, to stand up against the brutality of oppression, the horror of war. This is what mother’s day is actually about in its inception. How I wish it were so now.
Arise then…women of this day!
Arise, all women who have hearts!
Whether your baptism be of water or of tears!
“We will not have questions answered by irrelevant agencies,
Our husbands will not come to us, reeking with carnage,
For caresses and applause.
Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn
All that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience.
We, the women of one country,
Will be too tender of those of another country
To allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs.”
From the bosom of a devastated Earth a voice goes up with
Our own. It says: “Disarm! Disarm!
The sword of murder is not the balance of justice.”
Blood does not wipe out dishonor,
Nor violence indicate possession.
As men have often forsaken the plough and the anvil
At the summons of war,
Let women now leave all that may be left of home
For a great and earnest day of counsel.
Let them meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead.
Let them solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means
Whereby the great human family can live in peace…
Each bearing after his own time the sacred impress, not of Caesar,
But of God –
In the name of womanhood and humanity, I earnestly ask
That a general congress of women without limit of nationality,
May be appointed and held at someplace deemed most convenient
And the earliest period consistent with its objects,
To promote the alliance of the different nationalities,
The amicable settlement of international questions,
The great and general interests of peace.