Simcha Fisher: Sweet suffering Anna Jarvis

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What would the founder of Mother’s Day think of it today?

Does Mother’s Day play out in Australia like it does in the US? Maybe in Australia, you mark the day by honouring your mothers in a simple yet meaningful way that builds pleasant memories.

Maybe a little bouquet of local flowers and a heartfelt note of love and appreciation is universally acknowledged as the appropriate thing; or maybe the government has issued vouchers so every female over the age of 16 gets paid to put her feet up while drones drop made-to-order omelettes and mimosas from the skies. You could tell me anything and I’d believe it.

Here, it’s not like that. We’ve taken a simple holiday originally instituted to honour mothers and made it so emotionally convoluted and commercially bonkers that Anna Jarvis, the original founder of the day, eventually petitioned in disgust to have it rescinded, on the grounds that you people are insane.

We’ve taken a simple holiday originally instituted to honour mothers and made it so emotionally convoluted and commercially bonkers…

Well, old Anna is long dead, but if she were alive today and saw what a monstrous and convoluted behemoth the holiday has become, she’d head for the nearest spa with a Mother’s Day special, locate the hot tub, and drown herself.

She once wrote: A printed card means nothing except that you are too lazy to write to the woman who has done more for you than anyone in the world. And chocolates! You take a box to Mother—and then eat most of it yourself. A pretty sentiment.

She had proposed a single white carnation should symbolise a mother’s love and fidelity, and was annoyed and scandalised when commercial forces complicated things with the introduction of a red carnation, as well.

WELL, ANNA. We were just getting started! The traditional observances of the holiday have only multiplied in number and complexity and horribleness since then, and today it’s truly not Mother’s Day until we’ve marked a whole hellish panoply of traditions. To wit:

We must have inexplicable demands from people who’ve deliberately chosen to remain childless than they, too, should be lavishly and publicly celebrated on this day, because they’ve spent the other 364 days of the year making snotty remarks about breeders and their crotch goblins and that’s exhausting, and now they need an omelette and a mimosa. And a diamond tennis bracelet.

Every element of Mother’s Day doesn’t have to be Instagram-worthy – does it?

These demands must be ignored by sensible people but loudly denounced by some fool on TikTok who has a special gift for making truth look bad, and whose retrograde tirade in defense of motherhood gets shared and reshared until motherhood looks about as appealing as a Bataan death march.

We must have at least one widely-shared and hideously tone-deaf topical message from the absolute least mother-friendly person in the world (say, the guy who, halfway through his 75-year prison sentence for matricide, sold the movie rights to his story about how he strangled his mother, then pickled her, then sold those pickles to everyone on her book club without even offering them a discount; or, in the same vein, from Marie Stopes).

We must have well-meaning reminders to also honour and cherish the women who feel left out on Mother’s Day, and these must dominate the conversation until mothers start to feel guilty about having gotten an unsigned card their teenage son bought at the gas station with the $20 she gave him and that he didn’t give any change back for.

The card says “For my favourite father-in-law” and it has two ducks flying at sunset, and as she does the dishes, she feels very ashamed for all this unreasonable pampering she’s been receiving all day.

We must have a viral social media complaint from a fellow who doesn’t remember anybody making such a fuss over Father’s Day. This sentiment should be tweeted from a fifty-foot boat out on the lake, where the under-appreciated father in question has spent this and the previous eleven weekends largemouth bass fishing with his buddies, which he does out of consideration for his wife, so she and the kids can get caught up on the housework without him getting underfoot.

And we must have at least one sleepless night from a priest who, although he was once tortured by being hung in a bamboo bird cage in the equatorial sun for 57 days, and he once barehandedly executed a rogue crocodile who was terrorising the First Communion Class and didn’t even miss a beat in his explanation of the difference between substance and accidents, is now reduced to tears as he crouches, shivering in his lonely office at 3am, trying to write a sermon for Mother’s Day that isn’t going to make any of the ladies mad.

Finally, there must also be a family with lots of kids, and about half the kids come up with cute and slightly weird little presents and cards (and only half of them had to have their arms twisted to do so); the dad makes his wife’s favorite sandwiches for dinner (after having shopped for their ingredients); and the mom gets to spend a leisurely afternoon picking out a replacement for the peony bush the dog savaged last summer, and she doesn’t feel guilty about it at all, because peonies are pretty and beauty will save the world or something, and the dog wasn’t even her idea.

I’m signing my family up to take care of that final requirement. But if you want to honour my motherhood by giving me an additional gift, you could tell me that you Australians are this insane about Mother’s Day, too. In the name of sweet suffering Anna Jarvis, tell me you’re this bad, too.

Related:

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