May 11, 2008

This year we celebrate 100 years of Mother's Day--started by Anna Jarvis. Following her mother's death in 1905, Anna bombarded politicians, business men, and religious leaders, urging them to create a special day to honor mothers for their devotion, sacrifice, and skills. She had some pretty strict ideas of how this was to be done.

1. It was to be a holy day, not a holiday;
2. it was to be a singular possessive because we have just one mother;
3. it's to be celebrated with a single white carnation and a love letter, telling our moms why we love and appreciate them;
4. and it's be held the second Sunday of every May because it's the anniversary of her own mother's death.
5. It was not to be commercialized.

Three years after Mrs. Javis's death, in 1908, the very first celebration was held at her old church in Grafton, PA. In memory of her mother, Anna distributed 500 white carnations. In 1913 President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed Mother's Day a national holiday and the rest, as they say, is history.

Actually, Anna Jarvis spent the rest of her life fighting the commercialization of Mother's Day. She deplored the profiteering and elaborate gifts--so far removed from the single carnation and personal letter she envisioned. When I read of her distress? And when I thought about how best to celebrate Mother's Day this year? One plus one equals two, even I know that. So this, my friends, is my love letter to Mum--Shirley Elizabeth Goodfellow Wilbee.


Happy Mother’s Day, Mum!

One of my earliest memories of you takes us back to Wheaton, a thunderstorm, the three of us girls no more than 1, 2, and 3 years old in a long, thin bedroom on a second story, with a window, maybe two, looking down to the backyard. We’d been put to bed, I think, before the storm blew in. My memory opens to the darkness, the terrible Midwest heat, the mugginess, the sound of heavy rain, ozone in the air, flashes of lightning. All three of us were crying.

I have an image of Tresa standing in her crib, but this may be borrowed from one of Dad’s home movies. What I remember for sure is the three of us crying, sticky hot, and scared by the charged atmosphere. You came up with some candles and set them around the room. You also brought up a cool face cloth and wiped our faces and hands and put clean sheets on our cribs and laid us back down with our blankies. Then you pulled up a chair and started to sing.

You sang several songs, a welcomed oasis from the howling storm outside and beastly heat inside. The song I remember is “A Wise Man Builds His House Upon The Rocks.” You taught us the hand motions, and this probably got our minds off our fear and discomfort. I remember laying on my fresh new sheet, enchanted by the play of the candle-lit shadows on the walls and the lightning flashes that momentarily overpowered them. And your voice lifting over the sound of the thunder outdoors and the rain bouncing off the window frames and glass.

Miss Peacock in Port Coquitlam used to have us sing “A Wise Man Builds His House Upon the Rocks” at Southside Baptist. We’d do the hand motions and I always thought of that night in Wheaton. Perhaps it was Miss Peacock that kept the memory alive. If so, I’m grateful. It’s a wonderful memory, and still comes to mind when the air is electrically charged and the smell of ozone is thick.

Thanks for this and other memories, and for always doing everything in your power to make us physically comfortable amidst trying circumstances. You had, and have, a gift for that.

Love, Brenda