The apostrophe in “Mother’s Day” suggests that the day of celebration is for one mother only. This regulation, in fact, is what the founder of Mother’s Day had in mind, “an occasion for honoring the sacrifices individual mothers made for their children,” according to the History channel’s on-line site “History in the News.” Anna Jarvis, daughter of Ann Jarvis of West Virginia, worked obsessively to make Mother’s Day a national holiday (although she had no children). She got her wish. President Woodrow Wilson signed the celebration of Mother’s Day into law in 1914.
“No Duh,” you say. “We all have only one mother.”
“Except,” I say, “when that isn’t the precise case.”
After it went national, Anna Jarvis worked just as obsessively to have the holiday called Mother’s Day undone. She became nutsy over the commercialization. I have a feeling she would have become nutsy to the extreme over all the real-world exceptions to the holiday she had in mind. Families have become very different animals from the traditional family compositions she must have known. She died in 1948 in Philadelphia’s Marshall Square Sanitarium after using up most of her inheritance on legal fees spent on trying to undo the holiday.
My exception: I am both Joanna Leigh’s grandmother and her Mother. I am not “mommy,” but according to all the wonderful pictures, cards, and gifts she presented me, I am the Mom of Mother’s Day. And she didn’t flinch or ask hard questions when she honored me on Mother’s Day. That was the first reason to be extremely grateful on Mother’s Day 2013.
The second reason was an answer, finally, to a double-sided question I’ve been obsessing about: I’ve been searching for a clearer answer to “Who am I?” after 30 years of being defined and living as the mother of my unrelenting drug addicted daughter, and “Who would I have been if I hadn’t become a parenting grandparent?”
The answer to both questions is Joanna Leigh. First, she has given me the joy of raising a happy, curious, well-adjusted daughter. My own daughter never seemed happy and lived mainly a joyless existence chasing drugs. I lived with the horrible guilt that I had something awful to cause all the misery and unhappiness. It took a long time and a lot of work to finally understand that I didn’t do it. Second, she has given my husband and me a monumental purpose in our waning years, one much unlike the traditional ideas of seniorhood: time spent traveling, golfing, playing bridge, taking art lessons, lolling in the hammock.
Who am I? A parenting grandparent; who would I have been if. . . ? It doesn’t really matter anymore. The overarching gratitude is that my husband and I were able to be her safety net. I tremble when thinking about what could have happened to her. I posted a blog October 3o, 2010, after coming across one horrifying statistic:
Combined data from 2002 to 2007 indicate that over 8.3 million children under 18 years of age (11.9 percent) lived with at least one parent who was dependent on or abused alcohol or an illicit drug during the past year.
That’s the population of New York City, according to 2009 figures. Or the combined populations of Los Angeles, Chicago, and Houston combined. That’s almost the entire populations of Missouri and Kansas combined.
l That's more than 1 in 10 children in the U.S.
l 13.9% of those children are YOUNGER THAN 3-YEARS-OLD
l Another 13.6% are 3- to 5-years-old
And those figures don’t include 2008 and 2009. If drug use figure have gone up, likely so have the numbers of children in the U.S. living with drug and alcohol abusing or dependent parents.
Being a parenting grandparent is no picnic, no daydreaming in the hammock. I’m often tired and stressed. Her recent dance recital and all the rehearsals, applying make-up and putting curls in her wispy locks, and all the rest that goes along with it wore me out. Now comes her 6th birthday and party. If I had the leftover energy, I would become obsessed with changing the apostrophe in the name of the holiday so that it would become MOTHERS’ DAY. Punctuation matters.