‘All that I am… I owe to my angel mother’

‘All that I am... I owe to my angel mother’

‘All that I am… I owe to my angel mother’

By Nicole Daughhetee

Courier Staff

The inception of an official Mother’s Day holiday was born in the 1900s by pioneer Anna Jarvis. Following the death of her mother, Ann Reeves Jarvis, in 1905, Anna Jarvis envisioned Mother’s Day as a way of honoring the sacrifices mothers made for their children. After gaining financial backing from a Philadelphia department store owner named John Wanamaker, in May 1908 Jarvis organized the first official Mother’s Day celebration at a Methodist church in Grafton, W. Va.

After the success of her first Mother’s Day, Jarvis — who, ironically, remained unmarried and childless her whole life — resolved to see her holiday added to the national calendar. Arguing that American holidays were biased toward male achievements, she started a massive letter-writing campaign to newspapers and prominent politicians urging the adoption of a special day honoring motherhood.

By 1912 many states, towns and churches had adopted Mother’s Day as an annual holiday, and Jarvis had established the Mother’s Day International Association to help promote her cause. Her persistence paid off in 1914 when President Woodrow Wilson signed a measure officially establishing the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day.

Anna Jarvis had originally conceived of Mother’s Day as a day of personal celebration between mothers and families. Her version of the day involved wearing a white carnation as a badge and visiting one’s mother or attending church services. But once Mother’s Day became a national holiday, it was not long before florists, card companies and other merchants capitalized on its popularity.

While Jarvis had initially worked with the floral industry to help raise Mother’s Day’s profile, by 1920 she had become disgusted with how the holiday had been commercialized. She outwardly denounced the transformation and urged people to stop buying Mother’s Day flowers, cards and candies.

Jarvis eventually resorted to an open campaign against Mother’s Day profiteers, speaking out against confectioners, florists and even charities. She also launched countless lawsuits against groups that had used the name “Mother’s Day,” eventually spending most of her personal wealth in legal fees. By the time of her death in 1948 Jarvis had disowned the holiday altogether, and even actively lobbied the government to see it removed from the American calendar.

In the same way Charlie Brown’s friend Linus is disgusted by the commercializing of Christmas, I can understand why Jarvis became so bitter at the way her concept of Mother’s Day became distorted in her eyes. Still, as a daughter, I am thankful that Jarvis fought so diligently to have Mother’s Day placed on our calendar and that it is a time set aside for the celebration of moms.

I don’t think it necessary for a woman to be a mother (or a man to be father) to appreciate all the things moms do to care for their children. In my own personal experience, however, being a mother to two daughters has only served to heighten the admiration, respect and love I have always felt toward my mom.

Born in Greely, Colo., on May 30, 1943, my mother, Rebecca Alice Laws, would become the second of three daughters; her older sister, Betty, was five years older and younger sister Bonnie was two years younger.

My grandparents, Paul Borden and Sybil Marie Shortridge Laws were originally born and raised in Pleasant Hill, Mo., but somehow my grandfather’s service in the U.S. Navy landed them in the idyllic town of Estes Park, Colo., by way of San Diego, where he served on the naval base teaching men how to swim.

As a child I loved hearing my mom’s Estes Park stories, and my daughters have also had the fortune and pleasure of hearing them and learning many of the valuable lessons she taught in their telling.

The middle child, my mom was always the peacemaker. She idolized Betty and tolerated Bonnie, loving them both with the amazing depths and bonds that only sisters share.

Ever the comedic relief, my mom’s storytelling days began in her childhood and sometimes got her into trouble: she explained away very thin legs by telling the other children she had Polio and spent a year in an iron lung, and after visiting a family farm in the spring, she whipped up an elaborate story about acquiring a pet lamb who lived in the dog house with their Great Dane, Chief. When she found out her teacher was coming for Easter supper, she told Mrs. Schmidt that the lamb had died, and when her teacher expressed her condolences at that Sunday’s dinner, my mom said she wished she could have died at the that moment too.

Another favorite was the time my mom took a stand against a bully at her school. Susan Schultz was a recent transplant to Estes Park by way of Chicago. She had a wealth and superiority that she utilized to look down upon the kids in Estes, many of whom were poor. Susan fixed her torment on Kathy Laycook — one of the poorest among the poor — and would taunt and tease her until she cried. When my mom asked Susan to stop, she merely laughed. Without haste or thought, she punched Susan in the face, breaking a very expensive pair of glasses.

My mom was terrified to go home that day knowing that she would receive the beating of her life from her mother and the verbal scolding of her life from her father, neither of which happened. These days we all know resorting to physical violence is never the answer; however, in those days, my grandparents’ silence validated that my mother had done the right thing. Not because she punched Susan, but because she stood up for another little girl who didn’t, couldn’t stand up for herself.

My grandparents paid for the repair of Susan’s glasses, my mom apologized and Susan never picked on Kathy, or anyone else for that matter, again.

At the beginning of her high school years, my grandparents moved the family to Hialeah, Fla. (another story entirely), where my mom went on to graduate from Hialeah High school and enrolled in Jackson Memorial School of Nursing.

Compassion and care for others is deeply embedded in my mom’s DNA such that nursing came naturally to her and her career as a nurse has always been a labor of love. At 67 years old, my mom still works full-time as a nurse.

When I was a little girl, after my parents divorced, I would sometimes feel sad that my mom wasn’t part of the PTA or able to be at school during the day like some of my friends whose mothers didn’t need to work. As an adult, I value and admire all the sacrifices my mom made to ensure that we always had a roof over our heads and food to eat, and that she worked hard to not only meet my needs but, more often than not, provide the wants — the right clothing and shoes — so I would fit in with the incredibly wealthy children who were my peers at school.

I used to love Sunday evenings — watching my mom prepare for her week at work. Every Sunday evening, after we had had dinner, she would polish and buff her nursing shoes until they were a pristine white. Next she would iron her uniforms for the week — starched white dresses that simultaneously projected an air of authority and pure love.

The next morning I would watch her get dressed all in white, and the last thing she would do was pin her cap atop her soft brown hair. I’m not certain I realized this at the time, but looking back the scene evokes an unparalleled feeling of pride. My mom was the most beautiful woman in the world — not only in her physical beauty, but in her selfless heart and the way she truly touched people’s lives when they were sick and hurting and in need of tenderness.

No matter how often or in how many ways I tell her, I’m not certain that my mom will ever know the impact she has had on my life. She has taught me so many things: the value of hard work, having respect for my elders, politeness and manners; she has taught me how to cook, the importance of quality over quantity, the significance of education; she has given me the gifts of laughter, diligence, confidence and independence.

Of all these valuable gifts and tools, what stands apart from all the others is what my mom has taught me about love. She has shown me the blessings of having a faithful relationship with the Lord. She instilled compassion, benevolence, and empathy, showing me the impact kindness can have when it is freely given to others. Her love for me has never been laced with conditions, and because of this I am able to love unconditionally. Because of my mother I think about how other people might feel before I act or speak and I practice the Golden Rule of treating others the way I would want to be treated.

Abraham Lincoln once wrote “All that I am, or hope to be, I owe to my angel mother.” I honestly could not say it any better. My mom is the essence and epitome of love and what it means to be a mother.

I have no doubt that there are others like her out there. To all those great-grandmothers, grandmas and moms, here’s wishing you the happiest of Mother’s Days filled with all things bright and beautiful like the women you are. As children we will be forever thankful for all of the selfless sacrifices and tender loving care you’ve given — and continue to show us.