Friday, May 8, 2015

Mother's Day, 1959...

I was five years old and this is my first memory of celebrating Mother’s Day. I’m not sure if my family was just not into this motherly holiday homage, or if Mother’s Day celebrations have evolved over the years, but my memory of this day seems simple and unimpressive.

Easter, Washington D.C. 1957

Buckling my white patten Sunday School shoes (Easter had passed and one could properly wear white shoes again), I headed for the kitchen. On this special Sunday, I found my mother standing in her brand new very modern 50’s kitchen, making breakfast for her family of five, and preparing a roast or ham or chicken that would bake while we were at church. 

I picture my mother, hair and make-up ready, the scent of Aqua Net still lingering in the air, standing in her stocking feet, house coat over her slip, frying bacon and eggs. This might sound strange to younger readers, as today many children can be found bringing their moms breakfast in bed, served on a lovely tray with flowers and flourish. For those of us growing up in the 50’s and 60’s finding moms in the kitchen on Mother’s Day was normal…about the same as any other Sunday or Monday or Friday.

We gathered around our big circular claw-footed oak breakfast table that morning presenting mother with some kind of white flower. I hope it was an orchid, but fear it was carnations. Honestly, all I remember is it was a white corsage in a clear plastic box. 

I remember sitting in the congregation of River Oaks Baptist Church, wedged between my two older sisters and flanked on either end by our mother and father. The preacher (they were not called ministers in the 50’s) asked for the oldest mother to stand, then the mother with the youngest child, the mother with the most children stood, then all the mothers stood. I remember we clapped, we actually clapped, in big church. We clapped as all the corsage wearing mothers beamed with pride all around us. We most likely sang “What A Friend We Have in Jesus,” “Make Me A Blessing,” or maybe “Love Lifted Me.” A highly spirited, long winded sermon followed before we were allowed to file out of our pew.

River Oaks Baptist Church 1955

Before heading home, all the fathers stood around for a quick smoke, while the mother’s circled to visit before heading home to finish lunch. There was never a thought of eating Sunday lunch at a restaurant, unless it was Wyatt’s Cafeteria, but that would never have been the  appropriate thing to do on Mother’s Day.

I distinctly remember standing by my mother in that circle of women and someone saying they didn’t realize my mother’s mother had passed away. My grandmother was still very much alive, but it seems our faux pas was the white corsage. Emily Post Rule #231: “It is appropriate if your mother’s mother is living to give her a RED corsage, if your grandmother is deceased, a white corsage is to be given in her memory. Guess we missed Rule # 231, but to this day, I will never forget the look of embarrassment on my mother’s face. She was never again given a white corsage.

I remember coming home, my father ordering all of us to change out of our church clothes and hurry to help mother prepare Sunday dinner. I can’t remember one of us ever helping mother prepare anything in our pink and aqua kitchen, but I do remember the hours it seemed to take to clean up after a Sunday meal.

I remember presenting my mother with a Mother’s Day card I had made in Sunday School. My teacher had brought her brand new Polaroid Instamatic and took photos of each of us standing in front of a large picture of Jesus and the little children. Wow, this was huge! We pasted our photos onto our decorated folded construction paper card. It was the greatest of gifts. Years later, when we were cleaning our my parents home, I found that mother’s day card, it was still perfectly intact and had been kept with many of her other treasures for years.

That was it. Our Mother’s Day celebrating was over and my mother seemed completely content with the simplicity of it all. She had spent a lovely Sunday with her family, that was good enough.

I’m not sure why or how this holiday has so evolved, so escalated over the years. I suppose much like Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Valentine’s Day and Easter our traditions have become more involved, more extravagant, more hoopla surrounds each holiday. 

Perhaps Mother’s Day, 1959 wasn’t any different from other Sunday, or maybe it special after all, maybe that is why I so vividly remember this day 56 years later. There is something sweet and poignant when I look back and see my mother standing in her kitchen, proudly cooking a meal for her family, wearing her white corsage to church, in spite of the fact it wasn’t red, and seeing her smiling happily as she was presented with her hand made mother’s day card.

I will miss my mother this Sunday, but I will forever hold on to these precious memories.

For what it’s worth, 

Mother's Day 1971

Proverbs 31:28-30 “Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all. Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.”