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  • TRUE STORIES: Mother’s Day reflections

  • The first American Mother’s Day was decreed by Julia Ward Howe, who, in 1870, proclaimed it as a pacifist reaction to the Civil War.

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  • The first American Mother’s Day was decreed by Julia Ward Howe, who, in 1870, proclaimed it as a pacifist reaction to the Civil War.
    Modern Mother’s Day was first celebrated in 1908, when Anna Jarvis held a memorial for her mother and began a campaign to make Mother’s Day a recognized holiday in the United States. Although Jarvis was successful in 1914, she was already disappointed with its commercialization by the 1920s. Her disappointment did nothing to deter it. It’s estimated by USA Today that mothers will “feel the love” this year to the tune of $18.6 billion.
    Not surprising. There is perhaps no other subject about which so many stories, songs and poems have been written as mothers and mothering.
    I’ve collected a few quotes about the subject that give a variety of perspectives on motherhood as ideology, institution, and experience.
    Psychiatric pioneer Sigmund Freud wrote, “A man who has been the indisputable favorite of his mother keeps for life the feeling of a conqueror.”
    This seems to have been the case with Pablo Picasso, who said, “My mother said to me, ‘If you are a soldier, you will become a general. If you are a monk, you will become the Pope.’ Instead, I was a painter, and became Picasso.”
    In the same vein, George Washington is quoted as saying, “All I am I owe to my mother. I attribute all my success in life to the moral, intellectual and physical education I received from her.”
    A word on George’s mom: According to a book on his mother by Jean Fritz, Mary Washington had “a mind of her own.” She liked the isolation of the family farm near Fredricksburg, hated getting dressed up, and preferred to spend her time fishing with her first and favorite son, George, or rocking on the porch, smoking her pipe. While he was away during the French and Indian Wars, she wrote George to complain about how she was fresh out of butter (and could he please send some).
    I personally identify with Mark Twain’s quote: “My mother had a great deal of trouble with me, but I think she enjoyed it.”
    Speaking of mothers having trouble with children, here’s a wacky quote from Groucho Marx, “My mother loved children — she would have given anything if I had been one.” Seems it could well have been Groucho that Mae West was talking about when she said, “His mother should have thrown him out and kept the stork.”
    Marguerite Duras wrote, “Our mothers always remain the strangest, craziest people we’ve ever met.”
    Indeed, just last week I heard a radio program in which Susan Salter Williams talked about her mother who, when she died of cancer, left her journals, all of which turned out to be blank! It certainly left Williams with a poetic mystery to ponder.
    Page 2 of 2 - Being a mother doesn’t come naturally or easily to all women. They make mistakes and struggle to come to terms with life, just like the rest of us.
    Those who find themselves playing the victim role because of wounds carried from their childhood with a flawed mother might well consider this quote by Nancy Friday, “Blaming mother is just a negative way of clinging to her still.” Along the same lines, Alice Walker wrote, “Yes, Mother. I can see you are flawed. You have not hidden it. That is your greatest gift to me.”
    According to Erma Bombeck, when your mother asks, “Do you want a piece of advice?” it is a mere formality. It doesn’t matter if you answer yes or no. You’re going to get it anyway.
    Bombeck also wrote that when the Good Lord was creating mothers, He was into his sixth day of “overtime” when an angel appeared and said, “You’re doing a lot of fiddling around on this one.” And the Lord said, “Have you read the specs on this order? She has to be completely washable, but not plastic; have 180 movable parts... all replaceable; run on black coffee and leftovers; have a lap that disappears when she stands up; a kiss that can cure anything from a broken leg to a disappointed love affair; three pairs of eyes; and six pairs of hands.”
    The angel bent over and ran her finger across the mother’s cheek. “There’s a leak,” she pronounced. “I told You You were trying to push too much into this model.”
    “It’s not a leak,” said the Lord. “It’s a tear.”
    “What’s it for?”
    “It’s for joy, sadness, disappointment, pain, loneliness, and pride.”
    “You are a genius,” said the angel.
    The Lord looked somber. “I didn’t put it there,” He said.
    J.T. Knoll is a writer, speaker and prevention and wellness coordinator at Pittsburg State University. He also operates Knoll Training, Consulting & Counseling Services in Pittsburg. He can be reached at 231-0499 or jtknoll@swbell.net.

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