I guess you would have to live under the proverbial rock or be an awakening Rip Van Winkle not to know that this Sunday is Mother’s Day.
It would be hard to miss the myriad of print advertisements, television commercials and Internet offerings heralding the occasion and looking to take advantage of the commercialization of the celebration.
Of course restaurants — among my favorite pastimes — have all sorts of Mother’s Day specials available. They offer lavish brunches, lunches and dinners, all dedicated to filling our stomachs and emptying our wallets.
This emphasis on Mother’s Day meals piqued my curiosity as to which mother mothered the cultivation of cuisine for the commercialization of the celebration and when.
I thought of Mamma Leone in New York. The original closed in 1994 after nearly a century of selling meatballs and pasta, but I understand that now there are several Mamma Leone’s including a new version in New York. There is even one in Venice, Fla., but none that I am aware of in Naples which would seem like the perfect spot for great Neapolitan cooking.
The only restaurant I could find using a mother’s name in Naples is Mama Mia’s on U.S. 41 which has pretty good Italian food. Alas, I haven‘t seen any advertisement from Mama Mia in regard to Mother’s Day. Sorry Mama, it may be too late when you read this column.
Cuisine aside, Mother’s Day was originated by Julia Ward Howe when she issued her Mother’s Day Proclamation in 1870. I guess this would entitle her to be vested as the Mother of Mother’s Day or even the Grandmother of Mother’s Day. However, Mrs. Howe, of course, almost certainly is better known for having penned the words to the Battle Hymn of the Republic in 1861, so she needs no other title other than perhaps Mother Hymn which doesn‘t quite sound right. Mother Her would sound better.
We also should give a title to another mother, Anna Jarvis of West Virginia, who is credited with creating in 1908 the holiday as we know it today. Through Anna’s repeated beseeching, President Woodrow Wilson in 1914 proclaimed the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day. I suppose we could call Anna Jarvis the Nagging Mother, but then again, mothers would never nag.
As to President Wilson, while proclaiming an official Mother’s Day certainly made him popular with American mothers, Wilson’s decision to send our troops “over there” in 1917 probably changed the minds of the thousands of mothers of servicemen who made that trip.
But back to Mama Jarvis. When she saw the holiday being commercialized she referred to it as the “Hallmark Holiday.”
Certainly that is still the case today as chief beneficiaries of Mother’s Day continue to be the florists, greeting card producers and candy companies.
But commercialism aside, Mother’s Day is a wonderful occasion for communicating love and affection — as well as confection, if you wish — among family and friends.
It is also a day of tradition. In my family for years, we celebrated Mother’s Day at my great grandmother’s home. When she passed away it was my grandmother who hosted the Mother’s Day celebrations, then it passed to my mother and finally to my wife.
In the six or seven years since we relocated to Naples, we have exchanged greetings by mail and by phone with our daughters and their daughters. Since Mother’s Day purportedly is the biggest holiday for long distance phone calls and often circuits or phone lines are busy, we have found that Skype can fill the bill (and save the bill, as well).
Indeed, to us, Mother’s Day is a family day. At one time we had four generations of mothers living including my wife (the mother of three daughters and grandmother of four). And, as they say, the beat goes on.
Recently, I happened to come across an old autograph book which I think dated to my graduation from junior high school. In it were loving messages from my great grandmother, two grandmothers and, of course, my mother.
Certainly loving and mothers are close to synonymous and not only on Mother’s Day.