Feliz Cinco de Mayo!

Today is the fifth of May, the big national holiday south of the border celebrating the victory of the Mexican army over the French at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862, and although it wasn’t until 1867 that the French pulled out, it was the day when Mexico proved its mettle. And not only that, it’s universally regarded as symbolic of fighting for freedom against oppression for all peoples.

Although historically observed in Mexico since the 1860s, the popularity of Cinco de Mayo in the United States is due to some clever marketing by the Corona brewery people back in the 1980s. I mean, today it ranks as the third most popular drinking days of the year in the U.S., right under Super Bowl Sunday and St. Patrick’s Day.

But more importantly, this Sunday is Mother’s Day. I had an urge to send my mother a card, then…wait…I remembered she died in 2002. It was on that day I realized there is less time than you think you have to talk with your parents. I mean, they get older and will die while you will be busy getting on with your daily routine. Unlike a tape recorder, you can’t hit rewind. You only have today, and with a little luck, tomorrow.

I don’t know if you’re like me, but Mother’s Day is when I end up wanting to wax poetic about Mrs. Larson, so skip on down if you’ve heard this before. In her 89 years before she shuffled off this mortal coil, my mother lived to see all the innovations and upheavals of the last century. When she entered the world men were flying biplanes and movies were silent. By the time of her passing, astronauts were tooling around in the space shuttle, and movies were classified from G to NC-17.

It’s hard to picture our mothers in their early years outside of grainy photographs, but mine was born on a cotton farm in Tennessee before the radio was invented, and during her lifetime saw, not only the emergence of the atomic age and Teflon skillets, but also straight through to personal computers, cell phones, and the internet, as well as the Great Depression and two world wars. Not to mention civil rights, Vietnam, watching Neil Armstrong walk on the moon, and hearing The Beatles yeah-yeah-yeah-ing through my bedroom wall.

All of that stuff, however, was largely just a backdrop for her. She always preferred reading her poetry books, keeping house and bustling around in the kitchen. Truth be told, though, she wasn’t the world’s greatest cook, but she did have her specialties; beans and cornbread, biscuits and gravy, pork chops, fudge, poke salet, turkey dressing, pan-fried chicken, birthday cakes, meatloaf … OK, I take that back, she may not have been such a bad cook after all. Especially since she had six mouths to feed, plus my dad. Milton Berle said it best: “If evolution really works, how come mothers only have two hands?”

All this calls for some mom jokes.

  • Why was the house so neat on Mother’s Day? Because Mom spent all day Saturday cleaning it.
  • Why did the baby strawberry cry? Because his mom was in a jam.
  • Why is a computer so smart? Because it listens to its motherboard
  • What did mommy spider say to baby spider? You spend too much time on the web.
  • What did the mama tomato say to the baby tomato? Catch up.
  • I ordered a chicken and an egg from Amazon. I’ll let you know.

Unfortunately, good parenting is not practiced by all mothers. Look at Ma Barker, whose criminal career ended in a shootout with the F.B.I., Joan Crawford, who schooled her daughter on the shortcomings of wire coat hangers, and then there’s the reality show mother who hopped up her 7-year-old daughter on Red Bull and Mountain Dew for profit.

On the other hand, there are many excellent mothers out there, and me being the movie lover, I’m thinking of mothers like Arlene Joseph in Smoke Signals, where she’s able to serve 100 guests with only 50 pieces of fry bread. And don’t forget Cher, the biker chick mom in Mask, and Myrna Loy in The Best Years of Our Lives, where she advises her daughter that a good marriage isn’t all romance.

And of course, Forrest Gump’s mother, who sticks up for her son to the school principal, and says, “What does normal mean anyway? He might be a bit on the slow side, but my boy Forrest is gonna get the same opportunities as everyone else.”

All guys think they have the best mother of all time, but they’re wrong. Mine was best. Even when she would deliver that oft-repeated decree:

“This room better be picked up when I get home.”