One of my favorite picture books as a child was about a little girl who doesn’t understand time, seasons, or the days of the week. She vaguely recalls holidays: the flowers blooming, baby chicks , a basket with a fluffy bunny. She remember a cracking walnuts in front of a warm fire, relatives gathering and the smell of pies baking in the oven but doesn’t quite grasp the order or significance of why and when these events take place. Illustrated by Garth Williams, the title of the book first published in 1959 and written by Charlotte Zolotow is Over and Over.
I was thinking about Over and Over last Sunday on Mother’s Day. It’s not one of the holiday events referenced in the book’s story line, but like so many holidays on our calendars, it has become a regular observance evoking strong memories. I think of Mother’s Day and I think of spring flowers and spring planting, because that’s usually the gift I most desire. Everyone has different expectations. Talking to all three of my children by phone on the same day, for me is a treat. Other Mother’s want to be taken out to lunch, show, or museum. Everyone has their own idea of how the day should be spent, and that’s part of the fun.
Mother’s Day was originally created by Anna Jarvis in 1908 as a day to honor Mom and to promote reconciliation between the North and the South by gathering together former Union and Confederate soldiers and their mothers. Juliette Ward Howe, abolitionist and suffragette, began a campaign for Mother’s World Peace Day in the 1870’s and Julliette Calhoun Blakely, a temperance activist started a local Mother’s Day in Michigan in the 1870’s but it was Anna Jarvis who is the official Mother’s Day founder. In 1914, it became an official U.S. holiday.
I feel that Mother’s Day could be observed on any day we choose, so if you forgot to do something special for your mother, any time is a good time to let them know you’ve been thinking about them. In Thailand, Mother’s Day is celebrated on the 12th of August. In Norway it is celebrated on the second Sunday in February with Mothers being treated to breakfast in bed, usually fresh baked rolls and coffee.
Once Mother’s Day arrives, I know on the calendar that Father’s Day is not far behind. In the U.S. it is observed on the third Sunday in June. The first statewide observance of Father’s Day was in the state of Washington in 1910, organized by Sonora Smart Dodd, one of six children raised by a widower dad. In 1924 then President Woodrow Wilson urged states to observe Father’s day but although it was widely observed, it was not until 1972 that Father’s Day became a federal holiday. A proclamation was signed into law by President Richard M. Nixon.
I think of holidays that honor the dead and those who have served our nation in wars, such as Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day and as well as other holidays that honor those who have walked these lands before us such as Indigenous People’s Day, and I wish they didn’t have to take place on just one day out of the year.
It’s interesting how these days get associated with a certain season; spring, winter, fall, summer. However, their repetition in our calendar forms certain associations.
We think back to previous celebrations and whether we carved three pumpkins for Halloween or always paste red hearts on our windows for Valentine’s Day, we may notice the circumstances in our lives have changed. While once we packed up our babies to take everyone to Grandmother’s house, perhaps this year it is you who is hosting the gathering of friends or relatives.
The nicest gift you can give to anyone is your time and attention. Not everyone has the talent to create a beautiful picture or write a verse, so picking a thoughtful gift counts, but why do gifts have to be given on certain days? If you see something that makes you think of someone, that could be the right time to make the purchase. Whether you impulsively mail the dangling earrings that reminded you of your old friend from college or wait until her birthday, it doesn’t matter.
Over and over we do the same things, repeat the same patterns. Gradually small changes are made and we evolve. But do we have to follow the same order of things? I think it’s fun to mix things up.
Many years ago, when I was selling antiques in a shop we decorated the store window for “Christmas in July.” The Mad Hatter, March Hare and Dormouse in Alice in Wonderland were celebrating an “Un-birthday.” Use the holidays on the calendar as “reminders” and choose how and when you want to celebrate. How do you want remember a past event or make someone important in your life feel special?
Repetition is comfortable, but sometimes I like surprises.
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