The earliest known festivals in honor of mothers were held in the spring in ancient Greece. They paid tribute to Rhea, Mother of the Gods. In Rome the most significant Mother's Day-like festival was dedicated to the worship of Cybele, another mother goddess. Ceremonies in her honor began about 250 B.C.

Closer to the modern U.S. observance is England's "Mothering Sunday", or Mid-Lent Sunday, observed on the fourth Sunday in Lent. Some say the ceremonies in honor of Cybele were adopted by the early church to venerate Mary, Mother of Christ. Others think that "Holy Mother Church" was substituted for mother goddesses, and custom began to dictate that a person visit the church of his/her baptism on this day. Young men and women who were apprentices or servants returned home on Mothering Sunday, bringing to their mothers small gifts like trinkets or a "mothering cake".

In the United States, Julia Ward Howe suggested the idea of Mother's Day in 1872. Howe, who wrote the words to the Battle Hymn of the Republic, saw Mother's Day as being dedicated to peace. But Anna Jarvis of Philadelphia is credited with bringing about the official observance of Mother's Day. Her campaign to establish such a holiday began as a remembrance of her own mother, who died in 1905 and who had, in the late 19th century, tried to establish "Mother's Friendship Days" as a way to heal the scars of the Civil War.

The first Mother's Day observance was a church service honoring Mrs. Anna Reese Jarvis, held at the younger Anna Jarvis's request in Grafton, West Virginia, and in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on May 10, 1908. Carnations, her mother's favorite flowers, were brought to that first service by Miss Jarvis; particularly white carnations because they represented the sweetness, purity and endurance of mother love. Jarvis was so moved by the service that she began a huge campaign for a formal holiday honoring mothers. In 1910, West Virginia became the first state to recognize Mother's Day. A year later, nearly every state officially marked the day. In 1914, President Woodrow Wilson officially proclaimed Mother's Day as a national holiday to be held on the second Sunday of May.

But Jarvis' accomplishment soon turned bitter for her. Enraged by the commercialization of the holiday, she filed a lawsuit to stop a 1923 Mother's Day festival and was even arrested for disturbing the peace at a war mothers' convention where women sold white carnations to raise money. "This is not what I intended," Jarvis said. "I wanted it to be a day of sentiment, not profit!" (So it's a good thing she can't see modern Hallmark stores at the beginning of May.)

Futurama Episode #28: Mother's Day
Production #2ACV14
Date: Sunday, May 14, 2000 at 7PM
Intro Caption: "Larva-Tested Pupa-Approved"

During Mother's Day, the celebration of Mom, the owner of "Mom's Friendly Robot Company", robots all over the world gather to honour her with gifts. However, in the gathering of the robots, Mom plans to control the robots remotely (with use of their antennae) so that she may take over the world.

In hopes to end her evil plot, Mom's three sons (See My Three Suns) find out that Professor Farnsworth had once been Mom's lover. But to deactivate the robots' killing mode, the Professor must seduce Mom to steal the remote control that controls the killer robots, from her bra.

The crew succeed in restoring the robots to their normal state and save the day, but Mom discovers that the Professor had been using her. The Professor ends up being heartbroken and creates a race of giant mutant white gorillas screaming "Mom."

Go back to: Futurama Episode Guide

On Thursday, the neighbor’s movers killed a copperhead in the driveway. The construction workers from the house on the other side measured it – 4.5 feet. A large, poisonous snake…it was sunning itself in the front yard.

Mother’s day is today. I had forgotten. OK – I noticed some of the advertisements for flowers, but they disappear as soon as they are out of sight. I noticed people around me talking, oddly I thought, of their mothers.

I do not speak of my mother. When I meet someone, I do not mention in our first few conversations “My mother was an abusive alcoholic”. I also am not interested in hearing about other people’s mothers.

The snake worried me. I spend time in the front yard pulling weeds, watering the ailing 100-year-old Oak tree, and filling the bird (squirrel) feeder. I was glad that the snake was dead for the remainder of Thursday and all day Friday. I asked the neighbor, before he left for good, to throw the carcass in the back where hopefully a turkey vulture would see it and eat it. I could think of no other way to get rid of a dead snake. Garbage pickup was 4 days away and I was sure it would smell by then.

For two, three days I did not see any turkey vultures. There were two eagles, or hawks, being chased by the smaller birds. They flew away as fast as they could. By Saturday I almost felt bad for the death of the snake. Maybe it was keeping the squirrel population (which at one point had grown to eight but is now down to three) under control. Maybe, as others say, it is a rare species on this island – perhaps it was the only one.

When I was 9 months old, I broke my hip. Or maybe it was my thigh. There are different stories. I do know that I spent that day crying. I learned hopelessness that day. I learned what it meant to be alone, desperate, and near death. The break happened in the late morning. My father came home in the afternoon and finally took me to the hospital.

I do not buy flowers for my mother on mother’s day. Typically I do not buy her birthday presents either. I usually do remember Christmas. But I cannot buy her flowers. I’d like to say “Mom, it hurts every day”. I’d like to find out how the hip (thigh?) was broken – the truth.

There are things I’d like to do. I’d like to walk the six miles of beach on this island. I’d like to bicycle 20 miles. There are things I have to do. I cannot sit for more than an hour at a time, but I must fly for whole days sometimes. Mom, it hurts every day. It makes my life less.

When I got up Sunday morning the snake was gone. Maybe raccoons ate it during the night. It is gone from my life for good now – no more worries about the copperhead. Unless this snake was a parent. Unless it left small poisonous snakes in the front yard, lying in wait. I picture reaching under the mulch to pull a weed one day, and the feeling of a bite.

I hate Mother's Day.

My mother died two years ago, on May 15th, of ovarian cancer, at age 61. The day she died was the day after Mother's Day, 2000. She would have been 62 on May 31st.

She was my favorite person in the entire world. She was funny, charming, beautiful, incredibly charismatic. She taught me how to draw, how to paint, how to see. Any time I see beauty in the world I see it through her eyes.

She was the epitome of the Fun Mom. She went to a play with me and my sister when we were both in high school, wearing her jeans and high tops, and they gave us 3 student tickets. We all laughed. She had the most amazing ability to find a way to make to best of any situation, even when times in my family were difficult.

I miss her every day. I miss her more at this time of year, when the spring coming out makes me remember the spring she died. Sitting by her hospital bed, at my parents house, and her looking out the window and wishing she could be in the garden. Asking me to weed, so she could watch. I see a garden, and I miss her. I hear a funny story, and I think "I have to remember to tell that to Helen on Sunday". Then I remember that I can't. We talked almost every Sunday through thick and thin, and the phone still doesn't ring on Sunday in a way that makes the house echo with its silence.

I remember her telling me about one summer day when my father's alcohol consumption was out of control. She was walking up our street to the corner store, and stopped to get herself an ice cream cone. As she walked back down in the dripping hot Washington D.C. summer, she thought to herself, "this is all I need. This moment is perfect".

I remember easter, and her watching her two granddaughters, both two, toddle around grasping easter eggs and chortling. I remember injecting anti-nausea drugs into a tube, when she was choking, so she could fall asleep. I remember turning up the morphine when she was in pain, wondering if this was the dose that was going to make her stop breathing instead of just provide ease. I remember seeing her get thinner every day, suddenly seeing her look like my grandmother, going from 60 to 75 to 90 in a matter of days. I remember her hair all falling out, and her covering her head with rub-on tattoos, to make us all laugh. I remember thinking about shaving my head in sympathy with her. And then again, and now, in mourning her.

I remember her saying "I feel like I should be saying something profound..." and both of us laughing. And later, my telling her that our love wasn't made up of profundities, it was made up of little things - a cup of tea, a long and rambling conversation, a shared book, an art lesson, a walk around the garden, a sketch on a napkin. A shared sympathy, a sense that here was love, unconditional. I remember her telling me I was her best friend. I remember telling her, in response, that she was also my best friend.

I remember visiting gardens, being amazed with how she could name every plant and tree. Once I started working in the woods, I remember taking her on a hike and her admiring the fact that I knew all the wildflowers. I remember going on camping trips almost every weekend in upstate New York, starting at age 5, and being lured to keep hiking with sour balls, and the promise of chocolate at the end of the hike. (No chocolate during the hike, it will make you too thirsty.) I realize now that my first camping trip with Tess, we fed her sour jelly bellies about every 100 yards. She hiked 3 miles, at age 2. A family tradition I didn't even realize I was carrying on, at the time.

I have the camping sketchbook now. Sketches of me and my sister, captions like "Chrissy holding a bouquet of 'pinky ways', so named by her". "The girls played in the creek all day, building moss boats and getting wrinkly toes". Many descriptions of the food: dinner was hamburger helper, potatoes, the grown-ups had whiskey sours, yummy! The trip where it snowed. The trip with the wild strawberries. the trip where we accidentally camped in a cow pasture, and were woken in the morning by very curious milk cows. The first trip in Virginia, where we all walked by the most enormous copperhead I've ever seen.

I remember her dying with incredible grace, and her making her going easier for us. I hope I made her going easier for her.

I remember people calling to talk to her, and they would remark that it sounded like she was having a party. She would reply "We are, I wanted to have the wake before I died. You should come and join us!" And she meant it. The first week after she was home from the hospital, we cooked dinner every night for anywhere from 10 to 14 people. She couldn't eat, but we would all take turns keeping her company and filling her in on the dinner conversation.

I recently wrote a note to all my housemates. "I miss my mom so much right now, I feel as though my whole body is covered with bruises. Forgive me if I've been a space cadet lately, its because I'm out to lunch. Or maybe vice versa." They all read it at various times, and hugged me.

Please understand, if you wish me a happy Mother's Day, and I don't respond, it's not because of you. It's because of a phone that doesn't ring, a cup of tea that will never be drunk, a garden that can never be shared, a granddaughter that will never know a grandmother. I love being a mom...but

I hate Mother's Day.

dona nobis pacem, Helen Temple Burling Ottaway, 1938 - 2000.

Now it just says....

/me misses Helen.

Moth"er's Day.

A day appointed for the honor and uplift of motherhood by the loving remembrance of each person of his mother through the performance of some act of kindness, visit, tribute, or letter. The founder of the day is Anna Jarvis, of Philadelphia, who designated the second Sunday in May, or for schools the second Friday, as the time, and a white carnation as the badge.


© Webster 1913.

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