After Mrs. Squeers had served the little boys of Dotheboys Hall porridge, one that Dickens describes as looking like diluted pincushions without the covers, she uttered these words unabashedly, “For what we have received, may the Lord make us truly thankful”. (Mrs. Squeers: a character from Charles Dickens’s 1839 novel, Nicholas Nickleby).
As humans, we are indeed truly thankful for a plethora of things. Sometimes good, other times undesirable but for all that, let us singularly be beholden to our mothers, especially in this month of May. You may be astounded to know that a childless woman, Anna Jarvis, strained every nerve to establish, Mother’s Day in the USA, which is celebrated worldwide today.
The celebration of Mother’s Day has been a long standing tradition for many years. Anna Jarvis, a young Appalachian homemaker in the 1800s, helped instigate “Mother’s Day Work Clubs” to teach local women how to take proper care of their children. Mother’s Day started as an anti – war movement, where antiwar activists such as Anna Jarvis and Julia Ward Howe promoted global unity after the trepidation of the American Civil War and Europe’s Franco – Prussian War.
It is also perceived that, the concept of Mother’s Day wasn’t originally that of Ms. Jarvis, as one Mr. Frank Hering, a former football Coach and Faculty member of University of Notre Dame also bore the idea. In 1904, he advocated to an Indianapolis gathering of the Fraternal Order of Eagles to support “setting aside of one day in the year as a nationwide memorial to the memory of mothers and motherhood”.
Anna Jarvis held in disfavour the thought of Mother’s Day having a “father” in Herring, and considered the idea as her intellectual and legal property. She also loathed the fact that, Mother’s Day became over commercialized and sought for it to be celebrated by families and not a nationwide holiday. Regardless, President Woodrow Wilson in 1914, cemented the concept, and designated the second Sunday in May as a day for mothers.
The day also became an avenue for self-expression. In 1968, Coretta Scott King, spouse of Martin Luther King Jr., hosted a march in support of underprivileged women and children. Setting the tone, some women’s groups also used the holiday as a time to stress on the need for equal rights and access to childcare in the 1970s.
Historically, although not synonymous with Mother’s Day, there were celebrations in some parts of the world such as the Greek cult to Cybele, the Roman festival of Hilaria, Christian Mothering Sunday, among others, which existed thousands of years ago.
The concept of Mother’s Day is worth making a song and a dance about. Science explains that, a human body can bear only up to 45 del (unit) of pain; however, at the time of giving birth, a mother feels up to 57 del (unit) of pain, akin to 20 bones getting fractured at a time. And this is only the commencement section of a lifelong pursuit of mothering. Child birth happens so often, we fail to see how divine it is! I believe it one of life’s most glorious miracles. For another being to be conceived from another with a metaphysical underpinning, yet a physical outcome.
No ifs, ands or buts, the art of mothering isn’t only restricted to biological ties. It is an art of absolute selflessness, love and a duty of nurturing and building the life of another to the service of humankind and society. One, filled with instilling the virtues of altruism, self-esteem and respect for the human race in a child or an adult even.
Have you ever tried to measure how strenuous the duty of motherhood is? Perhaps you will one of these days when life lags heavily on you, and all you will need is a comforting cradle. Abraham Lincoln once said gracefully that, “All that I am, all that I hope to be, I owe it to my angel mother”.
It goes without saying that mothers can be pretty hard on us. But imagine building a sandcastle painstakingly, only for sea tides to wash it away in seconds. A mother has a bird’s eye view assiduously watching every step of the way. They wish for us a good life, one worth emulation.
When we are a welter of emotions; she’s an assembler. When we are aglow with hearty mirth; she’s a companion. When we are needy and weary; she’s an abider of peace.
Humans tend to have ingratitude towards everydayness; however, the celebration of motherhood can’t be encapsulated in one day. Each day should serve us a reminder of our mothers who are here on earth, and our mothers who are in heaven, “fault-checking” nevertheless, loving us unconditionally still.
Let us celebrate our mothers on this Mother’s Day and every other day, because before you could say Jack Robinson, either you or your mother could be journeying away from this vale of tears and had I known is not only at last, it sounds distasteful too.
Dufie Boakye is an administrative staff at Diaspora African Forum (DAF).
Columnist: Dufie Boakye