With Cinco de Mayo just past, coming up this Sunday, Nueve de Mayo, is one of those red-letter days greeting card makers love, Mother’s Day. They say Mother’s Day is right behind Christmas and Valentine’s Day for the most greeting cards sold. And here’s another fun fact: It’s the day when the most telephone calls are made.
The whole idea of honoring mothers goes way back to early Greek times when the goddess Rhea gave birth to Zeus and the pantheon of gods followed. Or so the story goes.
Early Christians had “Mothering Sunday,” which was always on the fourth Sunday of Lent.
In the U.S., Mother’s Day became a thing – not necessarily connected to religion – in 1908 when Anna Jarvis came up with it as a way of honoring the sacrifices mothers made for their children.
And, since I can only speak from experience, mine was no different.
I’ve read that the best parents are the ones that don’t let on to their kids what they’re going through and what they’re sacrificing to make sure you get raised right.
You know, things like, when I was little I had no idea we were poor, and accordingly, had no idea what my mother had to go through to take care of the other five kids in my family. I’ve come to realize she was a master at managing people and could’ve – if things were different – been the CEO of General Motors or some other big company. That’s how good she was at supervising us six rankling kids with six distinctly different personalities.
Talk about executive skills. She came to me once and said to me in secret, “You’re my favorite. But don’t tell the others or they’ll be jealous.” Or something along those lines.
Turns out she said that same thing to each of my other siblings, or so I found out years later from my sister, so, in effect, there was none of that Smothers Brothers “Mom like you best” thing going on.
In the end, she turned out two school teachers, one medical doctor, one psychologist, a respiratory therapist … and .. well, yours truly.
It’s been 19 years since she left this world, but the impact she made on my life has survived her mortality, as it has with my brothers and sisters. It was always, “work hard and be nice.”
She was always known as Elena. She was born on a cotton farm before the radio was invented and during her lifetime saw the emergence of the atomic age and R-rated movies 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, and seeing Neil Armstrong walk on the moon.
That sixties decade was possibly the most difficult for her, if for no other reason than me playing my Beatles records day-in and day-out. Like most mothers, she would bug me about doing my homework and hassle me about staying out too late on Friday night, but I don’t recall her ever saying said a word about my “Beatle” haircut.
In fact, years later my mother – at 66 years old – cried when she heard John Lennon was murdered. I don’t think she was actually a huge fan of the Beatles, but she knew I was and I think she was crying for what she saw as my loss.
That’s what mothers do.
Anyway, in observance of the day, I’m compiling a mix-tape of “mother” songs, but Ozzy Osborne’s “Mama I’m Coming Home,” or “Tie Your Mother Down” by Queen are not what I’m talking about here.
No, they’re more along the lines of “(Mama) Loves Me Like A Rock” by Paul Simon and “The Wish,” Bruce Springsteen’s ode to his mother.
The above-mentioned Beatles had a couple of good mother songs, such as “Your Mother Should Know,” and “Let It Be,” the one honoring Mary McCartney written by her son Paul. And don’t forget “Julia,” the song John Lennon wrote in memory of his mother, who was run over by a car when he was a teenager.
Then “Surrender” by Cheap Trick, in which the singer sings about his mother serving as a WAC in The Philippines during the war would be good, as would the one Jimi Hendrix sings about his late mother called “Angel.”
I’m also adding in “Mama Tried” by Merle Haggard and one of my own mother’s favorites, Johnny Cash’s “Don’t Take Your Guns To Town.”
And then there’s “Brass Buttons” by Gram Parsons, who lost his mother the day he graduated from high school that goes:
Her words still dance inside my head,
Her comb still lies beside her bed
And the sun comes up without her, it just doesn’t know she’s gone
Oh, but I remember everything she said.