Next Sunday is Mother’s Day, right? Well no, not according to my mother it isn’t. It’s Mothering Sunday.
For a progressive woman, she was remarkably traditional in some respects, this being just one of them. She hated the term ‘Mother’s Day’, and I’ve obviously inherited some of her attitudes, because so do I; though for possibly different reasons.
My mother always said that, though change for the good was to be fought for, change for change’s sake was a bad thing. Traditions have value, and shouldn’t be cast aside simply because they’re old. I subscribe to that. (Although I don’t entirely accept her secondary motive, which was that ‘Mother’s Day’ should be resisted because it was ‘American’. She was irrationally against nearly all things American, at least in her later years. The thinking, or emotion, behind that shift I’ll never know: after the War she had nothing but praise for America’s role in defeating Nazism, and Lend-Lease and the subsequent Marshall plan, without which, she rightly thought, Europe would have collapsed back into the same kind of chaotic vacuum as it did in the twenties and thirties.)
Anyway, to come back to the point: she was wrong about ‘Mothering Sunday’. It was originally nothing to do with motherhood, but was invented to lure people back to their ‘mother church’, and only fairly recently became subsumed into a celebration of the role of a mother. But that’s a quibble: what’s in a name? What it stands for is what matters.
I do, when I notice or remember it, think of my mother on that day, but not exclusively then. I think of her quite often, randomly and unexpectedly. Everyone has a mother, and it’s a bit glib to compress one’s recognition of her into this one day a year, isn’t it? I can imagine a mode of thought which says “Right, that’s her done for another year.”
That’s reprehensible, and that’s why I dropped the apostrophe in the title of this post. Even better, shift it to the right: “Mothers’ Day”. Let’s celebrate all mothers as well as our own – the deprived, starving, abused, unwitting, unwilling. We all owe them our existence.