Are you my mother? I didn't think so.
Did you call your mother yesterday to wish her happy Mother's Day? I hope so.
Did you call my mother to wish her happy Mother's Day? Hey buster, leave my mother out of this!
One of the most beloved children's books of all time is P.D. Eastman's classic, "Are You my Mother?"
Just in case you had a disadvantaged childhood, it's the story of a little bird who hatches and falls out of the nest while his mother is away hunting for food. As a result, the baby bird must resolve an identity crisis before he can get on with his life. Along the way he attempts to find motherhood in all the wrong places -- snuggled up next to dogs, for example:
"The baby bird saw a big thing...
'Are you my mother?' he asked.
The big thing said, 'snort.'
"You are not my mother. You are a scary snort!"
One of the reasons my own mother is so beloved is that she read to us at noon every day during the school week. We lived close enough to Charles R. Van Hise Elementary School that we had ample time to walk home for lunch and amble back before the bell rang. (Professor Van Hise, one of the greatest figures in the history of land grant colleges, had a mother, too.) When we arrived home, my mother had the Campbell's soup (usually chicken with rice or bean with bacon) on the stove and the grilled cheese sandwiches in the pan. But the best part of all was listening to her read a chapter from one of the Laura Ingalls Wilder classics such as "Little House on the Prairie." The noon story hour made a big impression on us. My mom is the best of all time, of course, but there have been other famous mothers throughout history. Take for example, Mother Goose, who rhymed so eloquently about Old Mother Hubbard.
Most people know only the first verse:
"Old Mother Hubbard
Went to the cupboard
to get her poor dog a phone
But when she got there
The cupboard was bare
And so the poor dog got no dial tone..."
Or something like that.
Almost no one recalls that there are 11 more verses to Old Mother Hubbard, and some of them are as silly as the first:
"She went to the barber's
To buy him a wig;
But when she came back
He was dancing a jig.
She went to the fruiter's
To buy him some fruit;
But when she came back
He was playing the flute."
Other famous mothers include Mother Russia, described so eloquently by the poet Nikolai Nekrasov:
"Wretched and abundant
Oppressed and powerful
Weak and mighty
And who can ever forget Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention, who scored a big hit in 1967 with their album: "Lumpy Gravy." I can tell you Mr. Zappa, my own dear mother never would have dreamed of serving us lumpy gravy.
Many historians think our modern Mother's Day has its roots in Pagan rituals. The ancient Greeks acknowledged Rhea, wife of Cronus, the mother of the gods. But early Mother's Day observations were more a celebration of motherhood itself, than recognition of one's own mammy. The American version of Mother's Day is credited to Anna Jarvis who, in 1908 organized a church service in her town in West Virginia to honor mothers. At the end of the service, she handed out white carnations to everyone in the congregation so they could honor their mothers. And that's how the floral industry was birthed.
Mother's Day was meant to be a lighthearted holiday. But this has been a tough year for a lot of mothers whose sons and husbands are fighting in the Middle East. I can imagine it has been at least as tough on Iraqi mothers as it has on American mothers. I hope Mother's Day 2005 will be more peaceful than Mother's Day 2004.