First, some statistics. Mother's Day is celebrating its 98th year as a holiday. It began unofficially in 1908 when Anna Jarvis, the daughter of a peace activist who administered to wounds during the Civil War, wanted to honor her mother. President Woodrow Wilson issued the official proclamation of Mother's Day in 1914. Some years later the Hallmark Card Company came into being and the commercialization of Mother's Day began. Anna Jarvis was furious and spent the rest of her life trying to undo Mother's Day as money spent. She lost. Today we spend $14.6 billion annually celebrating our Mothers (yes, they are probably worth it) and Hallmark sells 1.33 million cards at about $5.99 per card. You do the math. So in honor of my mom, I want to share of little of her life with the world.
I hope some of you are old enough to remember the TV show I Love Lucy, or watch it on any number of channels now. I suggest this, as living with my mother was a lot like living with Lucille Ball in the show. Always funny but not always realizing it, always doing the unexpected, always having the unexpected results and always (or usually always) able to laugh at herself in the process.
Divorce made my mom a single mom in an era when that was not a popular sport. She worked and then came home to be Mom. Dinners were usually straightforward; meat, potatoes, always a salad, and some vegetable that no one would eat. Dinners were sometimes an extreme curiosity when Mom got too creative. That's also when pizza night was born in our house. Rizzo's was the one place near us that made pizza and when they saw us coming, they knew my mom had either blown up the kitchen or tried a vegetable that did not come from a can or the freezer. Then there was the one birthday cake Mom actually made from scratch. I came into the kitchen only to watch it slide off the plate in pieces, icing and all. I cried, not for the cake but for my Mom's one and only ever effort to make one. For some reason we could never fathom, Mom was attached to a bowl of fake fruit she placed on the dining room table. Living on the 8th floor of an apartment building made for the great game of fruit toss. I threw from the balcony and my brother caught down below and my mother had a fit. This was a daily occurrence. One day the fruit disappeared. I was to find it again, years later, stashed in my college truck with a love note. That was the best.
Mom was creative in a lot of ways. The month of March, in Philadelphia, seems like a perfect time to go water skiing. So 40 degrees and remnants of snow on the ground, off we went in our bathing suits for a drive to a place offering to take hardy souls. Or snow-skiing in sub zero temperatures where there was no indoor lodge or bathrooms. Freezing was an art form in our family.
My mom was into incidental pyrotechnics. Each year we received an Easter basket cleverly hidden. One year mine was cleverly hidden inside the oven, which Mom had turned on to heat breakfast rolls. I can still smell burning chocolate, jellybeans, and those rubbery, sugary eggs. Skip the smoking eggplant - an immediate must-do after seeing something delicious from The Barefoot Gourmet that set off all the smoke alarms in her condo building. The real singeing moment came when Mom set her Uggs on fire; you know those fad suede boots? Told to waterproof them and put them in her kitchen sink to dry, she did as was told. Not told was that the water deterrent was flammable and fumes ignited her stove's pilot light. Viola! Instant charcoaled Uggs and a visit by the local news in disbelief.
Then there is Mom, the "Deer Hunter." The phone call 3,000 miles away to the West coast went something like,
"There's a deer stuck under my car."
"Where are you?"
"Center City Philadelphia."
"How did the deer get under your car?"
"I have no idea."
"Is it dead or alive?"
"I don't know. I didn't take its pulse."
Now why my mother would call me in Los Angeles instead of the local police is curious. I should note this is not the first deer she has totaled.
Mom, I love you and every zany moment of our lives together. Eighty-eight and still setting the world on fire, if not the Uggs. I think every day is Mother's Day when it comes to you.
And I will buy that Hallmark card and I will contribute to the $1.4 billion spent on flowers every year honoring moms. And I will journey 3,000 miles to give you a kiss on that day. Please always continue to make me laugh.