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Kittredge: Mother's Day Thoughts

05/11/12 7:55AM By Susan Cooke Kittredge
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(Host) Sunday is Mother's Day. And this year, commentator and minister Susan Cooke Kittredge is approaching it with mixed emotions.

(Kittredge) I have a friend who, when her four boys were young, dreaded Mother's Day. She struggled each year-as we often do when facing holidays-with high expectations and disappointment. She'd call on the Monday morning after Mother's Day and say, "Why did I expect it would be different this year? Couldn't they have just stopped fighting for the afternoon? Or have said, ‘Happy Mother's Day' once?!"

I shudder to think of how my kids remember the Mother's Days of their youth. All I wanted was for them to shovel manure onto the vegetable and perennial gardens. One of my sons recently said that it's challenging guiding his own children on this holiday when all he can remember is sweating in the manure pile.

It's easy to dismiss Mother's Day as an invented Hallmark holiday. It was originally established by Anna Jarvis to honor her own mother, Ann, who had founded The Mother's Day Work Clubs during the Civil War promote impartial care of both Union and Confederate soldiers.

According to some, Anna was adamant about the apostrophe in the word "mother." It was intended to encourage each person to reflect on his or her own mother; it was not about motherhood in general.

This is both the curse and the blessing of the holiday; it's very personal. Whether we're mothers, long to be mothers, or love someone who is a mother, we all had mothers. Some were great, some were not so great, but they were ours.

I've been observing Mother's Day for weeks. Mum died last year, the morning of Mother's Day when the birds were singing and the apple trees and lilacs were in full bloom. It's been my experience that it isn't so much the date of the anniversary of someone's death that affects us as much as it is the light and weather.

Mum loved sitting on our porch and looking out at Lake Champlain. When our eldest son arrived to see her ten days before she died, he walked onto the porch just as the sun was setting and casting us all in a warm salmon blush. Thrilled to see him, she threw wide her frail arms and gesturing towards the lake said, "Isn't this a beautiful place to die?"

We retreated briefly into the house and each other's arms, collected ourselves and went back outside.

I miss her. I think back to what she was like for most of my life - so very different from the diminished though still sparkling person she was in her late nineties.

She was practical, pragmatic, disinclined to sentimentality and always ready for a party. No matter what befell her, she didn't let it get her down, but soldiered through to a new day.

To be honest, I'm not looking forward to Mother's Day this year; I'll be glad when the light isn't quite so evocative; but at the same time, I look out at the lake and across to the Adirondacks and can't help but think, "Isn't this a beautiful place to live!"


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