Mother’s Day Ritual

Illustration by Damehi Laloo

I watch my mother jump to a sneeze and anxiously ask who among the three of us coughed the night before. I watch her wait impatiently for the fourteen-day period to pass after my sisters’ arrival from Mumbai. I watch her face light up at the breakfast table with make-do recipes. I watch her come up with an even lengthier grocery list than the week before.

A card and a gift from Hallmark, the town’s go-to gift shop, – that has always been my Mother’s Day ritual. And truth be told, had it not been for the lockdown that we find ourselves in, this year would have been no different.

Mother’s Day dates back to 13th Century ancient Greece where people assembled every Spring in honor of “Rhea, Mother of Gods” but it wasn’t until 1914 when it was officially recognized as a public expression of our love and reverence for our mothers.”

Feminist, Anna Jarvis who was one of the founders of “Mothers’ Day Work Clubs” acclaimed the holiday’s recognition during the U.S. Civil War. Initially the women of that time were given lessons by this club on how to be of liable help to both children and soldiers (to lessen the number of deaths), but when the War came to an end, Jarvis continued to work on transforming the club into an organization which then led to the peace movement called “Mothers’ Friendship Day” in 1868.

Jarvis hit a pinnacle in 1905 when her Mother passed away. She then altered to aggressive protests to fight for women’s recognition and appreciation which progressed into a revolution in 1907 where she led another massive protest to put “Mother’s Day” on the calendar.

Today, Mother’s Day is celebrated on different dates worldwide (first day of Spring in the Middle East, close to Easter in UK and the second Sunday of May in countries like U.S., India and China) but they all have one thing in common: making profit.

A 2019 report from the Nation Retail Federation (NRF) states a record-breaking profit of $25 billion on Mother’s Day which is an embarrassment from what Anna Jarvis struggled to achieve all her life. Although she was particularly famous, Jarvis never profited from her achievements. In fact, she used up all her resources fighting against the commercialization of the holiday and left the earth penniless.

Years after her death we continue to alter the day’s inception by purchasing gifts, flowers and jewelry. This Mother’s Day however, I did not want to simply give in to that (even if Mother’s Day wasn’t amidst a pandemic). Not after I have read this great historic piece about Anna Jarvis and not when my Mother worried herself to sleep or put herself in danger every time she was summoned for duty at the Disaster Management Centre.

So instead I choose to gift her one of the many things she has always encouraged me to do – to write.

I

I don’t know how you carry the weight of the world on your shoulders but you do

I don’t know how your smile never wears off but you do

I don’t know how you keep up with my shortcomings but you do

I don’t say this enough, Thank You.

 

II

A charming redhead and an even better cook,

the queen of laughter and the owner of a thousand books.

For teaching me how to be resilient and for  never saying “No”

I have become quite a strong 22 year old.

III

Being a single mother as though an art, 

she wears beauty and strength in equal parts.

Protecting us from the world while building us wings

My Mother is my everything.

 

Similarly, some “home chefs” may resort to making their mother’s favorite dish, or take over the household chores for a week and maybe, just maybe, organize an event in the backyard?

Whatever the level of creativity or the depth of thoughtfulness, this year we celebrate Mother’s Day with an added knowledge and a reminder that before they are “mothers” they are “women” first. As Julia Ward Howe said in the 1872 Mothers’ Day Proclamation: “Arise, all women who have hearts, Whether your baptism be that of water or of tears.”

 

Author: Yadawanka Pala

Yadawanka Pala is pursuing a Maters’s degree in Journalism and Mass Communication at North Eastern Hill University, Shillong. She was Longlisted for The Half and One Prize, 2019, and her poems have been published by Delhi Poetry Slam.

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