Sunday, May 12, 2024

The most important job on this planet is being a mother

    Today is Mother’s Day. 

    My beautiful mother had more friends than anyone I ever knew. She was the life of every party. All of my friends loved my mother and viewed her as their best friend- same with my brother and my sister’s friends.

    Inside, my mother was a tortured soul, made so by her Puritan parents, who made her a bit frigid, according to what she told me. She had married the man of her mother’s dreams, who turned out to be a womanizer, and they both ended up drinking a lot of vodka, starting with a morning screwdriver or Bloody Mary, and ending the day with same.

    My mother died of cancer, which had started in her lungs, when I was in law school, and her doctor told my father and his brother, but not my mother, that she had cancer and it was well progressed and there was nothing that could be done. My mother’s friends were shocked to learn she was dying of cancer and nothing could be done about it. She shut them all out and forbade me to tell anyone she was dying. It was surreal, I did other things and did not participate in her dying.

    When I was young, my mother told me that she started smoking two packs of Pall Malls a day at age 15, to rebel against her Puritan parents; and she told me when I was in high school that she wrote to my father in college, if he did not come home and marry her and save her from her parents, she would marry the first man who would have her; and she told me when I was in college that she had called off the divorce with my father, because her mother had told her, “If you divorce Sloan, it will kill me!” Cancer divorced her from them both.

    I never smoked a cigarette. My mother cured me of wanting to do that, because our home and her car always smelled like cigarette smoke.

    Would anyone care to know about the black woman who lived in our home and cooked our food, and washed and ironed our clothes, and loved me as one of her own, but for whom I might have been utterly lost? She is who got me to cry after my infant son died of crib death my third year in law school. She is the 2nd person I told about in A Few Remarkable Alabama People I Have Known, a free read at the internet library:

   My mother put her heart and her soul into her Episcopal church, and she forced me into it to prove to everyone else in our family that she made the right decision to leave her and my father’s Southern Baptist parents’ church and took her children with her, and I nearly choked to death on my first taste ever of alcohol, which in that church was called the blood of Christ?

    When I was in high school, my mother told me that her Episcopal minister told his vestrymen that if they did not let blacks worship in their church, he would close it. Her minister is the 5th person I told about in A Few Remarkable Alabama People I Have Known.

   My mother knew how much I loved to fish, and that if I not get to fish, then I might die, so she found men who would take me fishing. It really bothered her that I did not care to attend her church. I did not know, nor did she, that when she took me to a lake when I was young and left me there with my fishing tackle and a sack lunch, the lake was the church, and the fish were God, and when they had taught me how to fish, they would send me forth to fish.

    My mother figured out what was driving me insane- I was very late reaching puberty; and she stood up to my father when he made my working for his company more more important than my own life; and eventually she won that fight, but by then I had nearly destroyed myself and wrecked my marriage, and my daughters did not have the father they needed, because I was sick in body and soul, and was too preoccupied trying to prove my manhood to me, than being the father they needed.

    Despite everything, I came to the view that being a mother is the most important and most difficult job on this planet, and I never agreed with feminists who did not see it that way. I was okay with them not wanting to have children, but I was not okay with them having children and then wanting to behave like men while their children were young and needed them the most. I’m still of that view.

    I will cherish forever my older daughter telling me of receiving a letter from her college, asking her to report how she had fitted into their “business plan” for their women graduates, but there was no box for her to check in the questionnaire, because there was no box for being a mother and a wife, and she would not give her college any more money. Her two beautiful children are worth far more than her college.

    I will cherish forever my younger daughter raising two beautiful children, and at the same time becoming a pediatric eye surgeon, medical school professor and hospital emergency eye doctor, whose work schedule allowd for mothering, too, who in her early 50s hung it all up to finish raising her children and live on a farm. She told me she loved her patients, and she was a good actress and her patients' parents thought she loved them, too. 

    She knew very well that my father’s older brother Leo had been a pediatrician, and that he had many run-ins with mothers of his patients, and that he told one mother he treated babies, not mommas; and his babies loved him, even if his mommas did not, because his babies got well. My mother loved Dr. Leo, because he got me well many times, when I was a boy, and he took me fishing, a lot.

    My mother told me it really hurt my father’s feelings when I asked her why Dr. Leo was not my father, because he loved to fish and my father did not? I felt terrible when she told me that, but it was true nonetheless. From heaven, my mother watched Leo ream me out for crying at my son’s funeral. Leo is the 3rd person I told about in A Few Remarkable Alabama People I Have Known.

    When I was maybe 12, my mother gave me the magazine serialization of Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea, which I devoured. 

    I read it again in an American novels course my senior year in college. The professor said we knew when the bad guy showed up in a Hemingway novel, because he did not drink. The professor said there was something Christlike in the old man’s saga: the great marlin and the sharks coming leaving only the head and the tail and the skeleton in between, and the old man leaving his boat and carrying the mast up the cobbled road from the dock. I fed that back to the professor on the final exam and got an A.

    In law school, I read Carlos Baker’s biography of Hemingway, and then I read Baker’s compilation of Hemingway’s letters, and I came away thinking Hemingway was a great writer, truly, but he was not kind to women he had loved, and he was a really egotistical prick, and a drunk, but he was man enough to kill himself with his favorite shotgun, instead of waste away in a facility while cancer ate his brain away.

    Years later, it came to me that The Old Man and the Sea, the last novel Hemingway completed, was his unconscious suicide note: the old man was Hemingway, who gave it is best, but lost;  the young boy who got left at the dock was the young Hemingway who felt left at the dock by his father; the great marlin was Hemingway’s manhood, which he was always trying to prove; the sea was Hemingway's unconscious and the sharks were his feminine, who came to show him what he had lost- the body and the blood; and somewhere in all of that was Hemingway’s mother, whom he had loved the most, but was not able to tell her, or he did not know how to tell her. 

    More years later, I lived in Key West, and several times was urged by friends to enter the annual Hemingway lookalike contest, where old inebriated white men with white Hemingway-like beards, dressed in Orvis fishing costumes, hoping to be voted the winner. I told my friends that I would not participate, because I knew how to fish and write, and I did not drink like a fish. My mother and father had cured me of becoming a drunk. Eventually, I did not drink at all.

    When I was coming out of the black night of the soul in 1998, angels healed me of my mother molesting me in my crib, of which I had no memory, but the healing was so absolutely terrifying that I had to accept it. I remembered her beating me up when my father was off fighting the Japanese in the Pacific.

    My son’s death so unhinged me that I was unable to fit myself in my the plants me mother and father and their parents and I had made for me. He opened my heart and set me on my journey, is on his little grave marker at the foot of my mother’s gravestone in Birmingham’s Elmwood Cemetery. My ashes will spread somewhere dear to me.

    I wonder now if bringing new children into this twisted world is kind to them? I wonder if women should go on strike and cross their legs until things get better or there are no people on this planet?

    In my Apple Newsfeed this morning was a bittersweet tribute to a childless woman who created what others twisted into something she despised.

She invented Mother’s Day — then waged a lifelong campaign against it
May 11, 2024

While dining at a Philadelphia tearoom owned by her friend John Wanamaker, Anna Jarvis ordered a salad — then dumped it on the floor.
Jarvis hated that the dish was called “Mother’s Day Salad,” named after a celebration of mothers that she had pioneered years earlier.
The strong-willed woman saw it not as an honor but an affront to a tradition she held so dear. To her, it was a cheap marketing gimmick to profit off an idea that she considered to be hers, and hers alone.
The incident was recounted in a newspaper article published sometime in the early 1900s, years after Jarvis organized the first Mother’s Day service in the country, said Katharine Antolini, a historian who has studied Jarvis and how Mother’s Day became a national holiday.
Jarvis spent decades fighting an uphill battle to keep Mother’s Day from becoming the commercialized holiday that it is today. To her, it was simply a day to honor mothers, and she started it to commemorate her own. So when people co-opted her idea for other purposes, Jarvis was incensed.
She started fights, threatened lawsuits, wrote letters to politicians, issued bitter news releases, organized protests, fought with Eleanor Roosevelt, and demanded audiences with presidents, among other actions.
She even claimed legal copyright to the holiday, Antolini said. Her letters were signed “Anna Jarvis, Founder of Mother’s Day.”
“It became a part of her identity,” the historian said. “It was completely tied up in her ego.”
The fight that consumed Jarvis was waged in vain, and her campaign drained the modest fortune she’d inherited from her family. She died in a sanitarium in 1948 at age 84 — alone, blind and penniless.
If she were alive today, Antolini said, Jarvis would have been thrilled that Mother’s Day remains popular.
“But she’d be upset that people don’t remember her,” the historian said.
She would probably be equally angered to know that the holiday is celebrated in part through Mother’s Day specials and sales, Hallmark cards and floral arrangements.
Antolini, chair of the history department at West Virginia Wesleyan College, said she began studying Jarvis and the history of Mother’s Day in the 1990s, when she visited the International Mother’s Day Shrine, in Grafton, W.Va. It’s a museum of the church where the first Mother’s Day service was held.
In the church’s kitchen area, Antolini said, she found several boxes of documents that belonged to Jarvis. She volunteered to archive them and spent months poring over the records.
She learned about the childless woman who dedicated her life to the obsessive pursuit of creating a holiday for mothers.
“The surface image of her is that she was this crazy spinster who dedicated her life to this movement and fought everybody who tried to take her day away from her,” Antolini said. “It was her life to create this holiday, to perpetuate it and have it spread nationally.”
Jarvis, born in Webster, W.Va., was inspired to create Mother’s Day by her mother, Ann Reeves Jarvis, a Sunday school teacher who helped start Mother’s Day Work Clubs to teach women how to care for their children.
After one lecture in 1876, Ann Reeves Jarvis prayed that somebody would create a day commemorating mothers for their service to humanity, Antolini said.
Twelve-year-old Anna Jarvis remembered that.
Her mother died in 1905, and Jarvis, then in her 40s, promised at her gravesite that she’d be the one to answer her prayer.
Over the next years, Jarvis embarked on a relentless letter-writing campaign to persuade the governor of every state to declare the second Sunday of May — the closest Sunday to her mother’s death anniversary — Mother’s Day.
She wrote to Mark Twain, President Theodore Roosevelt and any other powerful figure she could think of to help with her cause, Antolini said. She also sought the help of Wanamaker, the Philadelphia businessman and her friend.
At one point, she incorporated the Mother’s Day International Association. It’s unclear whether the corporation had other members, according to the obituary.
Even charities became the target of her disdain. During the Great Depression of the 1930s, charities held fundraising events on Mother’s Day to help mothers in need. Jarvis resented that.
“She didn’t want it to be a beggar’s day,” Antolini said. “She didn’t want the day to be turned into just another charity event. You don’t pity mothers; you honor them.”
In studying Jarvis, Antolini came to sympathize with the tenacious and fiercely independent woman who remained single and childless at a time when women were expected to do the opposite.
“You get behind the motivation for why she’s doing it. She doesn’t sound crazy. Her argument is sound,” Antolini said. “Many times, you’d feel she’s justified in being angered about these things.”
But she also felt that Jarvis had a narrow view of what motherhood is about. Hers was the perspective of a child, of a daughter who deeply loved her mother.
“Children have a very simplistic view of motherhood,” Antolini said. “Those women who then would become mothers, they have a completely different view of motherhood. It’s becoming politically active to save the lives of mothers of other children.”
By the early 1940s, Jarvis had become undernourished and was losing her eyesight. Friends and associates placed her in a sanitarium in West Chester, Pa. She died Nov. 24, 1948.
Mother’s Day has become one of the most profitable U.S. holidays, with annual spending steadily growing since 2006. This year, consumers are expected to spend a near-record $33.5 billion, according to the National Retail Federation.
We can imagine how Jarvis would feel about that.
A version of this story was originally published on May 14, 2017.

    Was Anna Jarvis nuts?


The Yorktown Sentry
A Student Newspaper of Yorktown High School

A Brief History Of Christmas And Its Commercialization

Mason Wolverton, Staff Reporter
December 16, 2022

For many people, the Christmas season means ornaments hanging from trees, stockings lining fireplaces and joyful music filling the air. In addition, millions brace themselves for the month of constant marketing messages and spending. This hasn’t always been the case.

Different cultures have long celebrated the winter solstice, which falls on December 21. The origin of Christmas itself can be traced back to ancient Rome, where it evolved from a winter holiday called Saturnalia. In the fourth century, there was a push to weaken non-Christian traditions, and Saturnalia was seen as a perfect basis for a celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. It included gift exchanging, candle lighting, decorating, feasting and singing, which all evolved into Christmas traditions.

The holiday developed across many different cultures to reach the point it has today. One of its staples—Santa Claus—was inspired by St. Nicholas: a real person. Born in third-century Turkey, he was known for his kindness and generosity toward less fortunate people. Advent calendars and wreaths, among other common Christmas celebrations, came from cultures in Germany and Austria.

These traditions made their way to the United States on several avenues. Dutch immigrants brought the legend of Santa to New York in the 1600s, and Germans brought Christmas trees in the 1700s.

The holiday started to gain serious traction in the U.S. when Washington Irving, an Englishman who’d settled in New York City, published a series of stories describing Christmas traditions of old. The holiday’s momentum in America was accelerated even more when Clement Clark Moore coined the idea of Santa Claus riding a sleigh through the air in a story called An Account of a Visit From Santa Claus, which is now known as The Night Before Christmas.

In the 1840s, marketers began to see Christmas as a prime opportunity to sell goods. Depictions of Santa were associated with advertisements in big cities like New York City and Boston, and the first in-store Santa appeared at Macy’s in 1862.

The commercial ties of the holiday only grew from there. In the early-to-mid 1900s, mass advertising campaigns full of holiday tunes and colorful decorations filled the radio airways and storefronts, and Macy’s looked to signal the beginning of the holiday (spending) season with its first Thanksgiving Day Parade in 1924.

Thousands of movies and songs later, Americans are spending more money on Christmas than ever before. In 2021, a combined $886.7 billion dollars was spent on the holiday, a number that has climbed each of the last 20 years other than 2008.

There’s no denying that Christmas has become an uber-commercialized holiday. For the most part, that can be a good thing; after all, the holiday season is the Most Wonderful Time of the Year. However, for some, it can be frustrating to see the holiday detach further from its purpose in favor of cash.

No comments: