Taking Mother’s Day off | Living with Gleigh

The whole notion of Mother’s Day started in ancient times as an annual spring festival the Greeks dedicated to maternal goddesses. It has evolved and devolved since ancient times depending on the country in which it was celebrated. It was brought to the US as an idea influenced by Julia Ward Howe in 1872; she wrote the “Battle Hymn of the Republic.” Ironically, she intended it to be a holiday dedicated to peace; a rallying cry for women worldwide to oppose war and fight for social justice.

Hmm? A holiday for peace for the people in our lives who have little peace because they are busy coordinating and mediating the lives of the various humans for whom they are directly and indirectly responsible? Do you think flowers and brunch will make up for that?

I am being facetious. I always appreciate any gratefulness my family wants to extend to me, but let’s face it – Mother’s Day is for women who have either lost their mothers or who have moved away from them.

Among the mothers whose own mothers are walking this earth living nearby, how relaxed are you this weekend? Raise your hand, if you have one free. My guess is you are busy planning how you can honor your own mother and perhaps your husband’s mother too.

Several years ago, I decided I was going to create the Mother’s Day I wanted, while still showing my regard for the other mothers in my life. So I created wonderful, homemade picnic lunches and drug both mothers and my family out to a beach near where my in-laws lived on Whidbey Island; no matter the weather.

I was going to enjoy myself even if I was the one to make it happen; it was Mother’s Day and I was asserting that I am mother too. Although it’s often been beautiful on Mother’s Day, there have been many Mother’s Days that were blustery and rainy, but I wasn’t going to let anything rain (in the metaphorical sense) on my parade.

My family photo album has many pictures of these Mother’s Day adventures. There’s a photo of my mother with rubber shoes on her feet dressed in her fleece-lined windbreaker with her hood up, a blanket pulled over her head, another covering her lap. She looked like the bag lady of the beach.

The following year with the weather looking similar to the previous Mother’s Day, my mother chose to stay home. Go figure. I snapped a photo that year of my mother-in-law hunched over the picnic table, anorak hood pulled tight around her face, wrapped in a blanket, shivering from the chill of the misty ocean day.

In spite of the grandmothers’ discomfort, I always had a great time. My kids and I beach combed, made little water rivulets around the sand mounds the tide created, and played with the dogs as they raced along the beach.

Then the next year, with the forecast playing déjà vu and my mother opting once again to stay home, I was still determined to carry out my beach picnic plans. But everyone talked me into just walking down to the marina, a block away from my in-laws’ house for a bit of fresh air. Then we ate our picnic in their kitchen. What’s the fun in that?

Everything has changed now: my in-laws have moved from the Island, I’m worn out with helping them clean out their house to get it ready to sell, and my own mother gave me the best present she could have ever given me – Mother’s Day off. No beaches, no picnics, no flowers, just a day completely to myself with no worries.

It’s too bad. The weather is really nice this year.

Gretchen Leigh is a stay-at-home mom who lives in Covington. She is enjoying her obligation-free Mother’s Day. You can also read more of her writing and her daily blog on her website or on Facebook at “Living with Gleigh.” Her column is available every week at under the Lifestyles section.

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