Since 1914, this is the day mothers or individuals who live in the role of motherhood have been celebrated officially. The parents of this Mother’s Day celebration are strange parents to say the least. President Woodrow Wilson is its father and Anna Jarvis is credited as its mother. Over the years there have been many individuals who have attempted to claim ownership of this day, as well as serious disputes about how it should be celebrated.

This year as we celebrate, let us be joyful that this strange pair of “parents” saw a blessing in having a day to give honor to the humans who give of themselves to love and nourish their offspring for nine months then present the child to the world hoping that the family and community will help them develop into productive humans who will grow and learn and build for the next generation following.

For many of us who still have mothers alive, Mother’s Day may be joyful, but for others whose mothers have crossed over, there may be a tinge of sadness. I am sad and joyful when I think of my mom, Ella, who transitioned two years ago at the age of 97-plus. Out of the 97 years I can recall her being sick in bed only once. I had a blessed mother who gave of herself every day, to her children, her community children, her church members and anyone who needed her. She saved everything that seemed to have some use because she thought there was someone out there needing something she had.

Any time we questioned why, she always reminded us about the parable from the Bible about the knock at midnight. This weary, needy, hungry traveler stopped by this man’s house, indicating he was in need because he had been traveling for days. The traveler requested bread from the man, but the owner of the house had to run next door to ask food of his neighbor. The next door neighbor heard the knock at his door and wanted to know who was knocking on his door at midnight. He asks, “Who knocks?” The man answered and said, ”It is your next door neighbor. Please let me have a loaf of bread because I have a weary traveler at my house who is hungry.” The man of the house said, “I am in bed, my entire family is in bed, the fire has been bedded and we have latched the door for the night.”

The neighbor knocked a second time, calling for the loaf from his neighbor for the traveler. This second time he banged on the door with urgency and a little bit louder than before. The man of the house said, “Did you not hear me? I said that we are in bed and have put the latch on the door. We are in our night caps and do not plan to get up anymore tonight.”

The next door neighbor banged a third time on the door even louder and called out for a loaf of bread with grave seriousness. As the biblical story goes, the neighbor got out of bed and delivered the loaf to the neighbor. The moral of that story has several levels of interpretations. Mom’s interpretation was from Matthew 24:44, “Therefore, be ye also ready; for in an hour that ye think not the Son of man cometh. Be ready then; for at a time which you have not thought of, the Son of man will come.” The biblical meaning is much deeper. Being persistent pays off with God. Mom loved the story because she always wanted to be ready when that knock came to her door at midnight. She did not want to have to run next door in order to give assistance to her neighbor. Mom wanted to be a motherly neighbor in her community.

Each of us can write a different definition of what a mother is based on our individual experiences. For some of us, a mother is an aunt who stepped in when one did not have a mother. For others, a mother might be the grandmother who saw that the birthright mother was not able in many ways to raise the grand. For yet others, a mother might be that older sister or brother who stepped up to nurture and guide the child. For others it might be a father who stepped into that role to fill the void.

Whatever our experience is and our attitude about mothers might be, we do know what the day is not about. Mother’s Day celebration should not be one that the florists and candy makers are making lots of money from the idea. It will take all of us to work on making it a day of celebrating motherhood and all of the characteristics of mothers.

Willie Mae Samuel is a playwright and a director in Rome.

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