I struggled severely with articulating my strong dislike for Mother’s/Father’s/Grandparent’s/Postal Worker Appreciation Day until yesterday. I was teasing a young lady that I work with about her dating life (cruel, I know) and she asked me for a recommendation for a restaurant that she could visit on an upcoming date…I rattled 2 or 3 and she guessed that I must have taken my wife there for her Birthday or Valentine’s Day or our Anniversary- I told her that the last special occasion that we went out on the town for was called…Thursday…She was shocked and asked how much an average dinner was at the place and I told her that because neither she or I drink alcohol, the average bill after tip is just south of $100 and as her eyes grew large, she said well what in the world (she didn’t say world) did you do for your anniversary last year? Pause, pause, gaze off in distance and I looked her in the eye and told her- “I can’t remember”…and I couldn’t until I remembered that the answer was NOTHING! Our 6th anniversary last year fell on a Sunday and I had a wild and wonderful plan for a great dinner but I bungled the reservation, apologized for it and fell asleep around 4 PM on the couch after worship- we went out that following Friday and celebrated the date of our wedding 5 days late and guess what- the sun kept shining, the world kept turning and the universe did not explode because we didn’t clink glasses at the exact same time that we had on the day that we both said “I do”.
The concept of Mother’s Day as a holiday (holy day) is troubling. If we suspend the wonderful feelings that we have about our Mothers -and if you know me, you know that I absolutely adore my Mother- it’s clear that Mother’s Day joins many other “holidays” as fronts for commercialism and capitalism. Christmas is the day that we celebrate the birth of Christ is a holy day and Madison Avenue loves to sell us all things bright and beautiful related to it and in doing so increase their year-end profits and margins…a week later is New Year’s Day- a “holiday” where the only thing we celebrate is the changing of a calendar- boosts tuxedo rentals companies, caterers, champagne distributors and hoteliers…we then stay out of the mall until mid-February when we give our money to Godiva, Zales, Jared and Teleflora all in the name of arrow struck love…now if there were no manufactured reason to go back to the stores, then we would likely chill for a minute and pay down some debt- a few of us may even save a dollar or two before we go buy a new grill and support the beef, pork, chicken, charcoal and firework industry at the end of May for Memorial Day…but if we saved, if we abstained from spending then the CEOs of the member companies of the NY Stock Exchange would never be able to purchase their next private jet and we just can’t have that now can we? Instead, the marketing geniuses kidnapped an innocuous idea that originated in the heart of Anna Jarvis to offer a carnation to each member of her local church in the early 1900’s and morphed it into an all-out guilt fest of forced travel, maxed out credit cards and packed restaurants with the high potential for many feelings to be trampled upon.
So then, the reason that I absolutely cringe and recoil at these observances is that I strongly believe that love forced isn’t really love at all. Do you really want special treatment that is limited to the constraints of a calendar? I don’t. There is a Mother that perhaps you and I know that right now is negotiating a deal with a child that she gave life to for that child to simply show up and stay awake in worship on Sunday- just so that she is not embarrassed. Is that the love you want- is that the love you need? There is a child right now that is begging/borrowing/transferring/overextending and shopping knowing good and well that the 15th is next Thursday and that payday is next Friday. Do you really want the gift that has an overdraft fee attached to it? I have witnessed environments where the food prepared by the sibling that no one wanted to cook came out edible and the flowers were fresh and Dad was in a good mood and the Pastor didn’t preach too long and the gifts were all on point and while sitting at dinner, some Mother sighs and her voice drifts away as she says “I only wish (insert wayward child’s name) were here…” There is a mother and there is a child that you and I both know that will be almost cathartic on Mother’s Day because they don’t want dinner, they don’t want flowers, they don’t want jewelry, they just want to hear their Mother’s voice again and the sting and separation of death has rendered that impossible.
This is the part of the writing where you expect me to say “let’s make Mother’s Day every day”…nah not practical and I despise clichés. I call my Mother twice a week or so and we laugh, we disagree, we debate scripture, we update, we cross reference and we fix the world’s problems- all in about a half hour or so. No one makes any money off of our conversations. No receipt prints when we say “I love you” and hang up. Our chats do not make their way to some conglomerate’s profit and loss statement but those moments- those bonding moments- yeah that’s my Mother’s Day and I make it my business during each of our interactions to make my Mother’s day.
I’m driving down to Orangeburg on Friday. I’ll be at the home house that night, cook breakfast early Saturday morning then I’ll take my Mom wherever she wants to go and when we get there, we’ll do whatever she wants to do and on Sunday morning I’ll drive her to Fairview where she will give her 10th consecutive Mother’s Day address to the church that I’m privileged to Pastor. We will leave there, eat with some of the best people that I know in V-ville and place wreaths at her Mother’s grave in Greenville and her Grandmother’s grave in Simpsonville. We’ll head to Harbison Boulevard and get ice cream at Marble Slab, then drive back to Orangeburg, where I will pick my car up and head back to Northeast Columbia. Then next Wednesday I’ll call her…on Mother’s Day.
God’s Best Be With You Always,
Rev. Sterling J. Dowling