Sunday is Mother’s Day in the United States. Traditions honoring mothers go back centuries, and virtually every country in the world holds Mother’s Day celebrations.
Our modern Mother’s Day holiday began in 1907 when Anna Jarvis held a memorial celebration for her mother at St. Andrews Methodist Church, in Grafton, W.Va.
The celebration became official by the presidential proclamation of Woodrow Wilson in 1914.
My mom grew up in Yakima, Wash., one of five children. Her nickname was “Captain” given to her by her dad because she was the one who kept the other siblings in line. She met my dad in Tacoma in 1945. They were married soon after, and she gave birth to their first child, a son, in 1947.
That would be me.
Mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2008. She died in 2012. She was 88. Every one of us has a mom story. Maybe more than one. Some are sad, some hilarious, some poignant. Mothers Day for some is not a big deal. For others it is a major gathering of family. I get that. There is no “one size fits all” for anything we do.
I have three very distinct memories of my mom. The first one is her chili. She was a pretty good cook, and her ground beef chili was a favorite of mine. Good chili flavor, a little heat, she would fry tortillas flat, like a tostada, and we would pile on cheese, tomatoes and lettuce and dig in.
I still make her chili.
The second memory is from the time I was in college. I was involved in theater productions, and got the part of the ingenu in the play “The Fantastiks.” There is a part in one act where the boy (me) encounters a couple of scoundrels along his journey. One is a Shakespearean actor, and the other is an Indian. They looked and acted like Laurel and Hardy. Anyway, these two made their entrance out of a large trunk, first the actor, and next the Indian. My friend Ernie Hood played the Indian. Tall and thin, he wore a Long John dyed brown, a breechcloth and a one-feather headdress.
While the Shakespearean actor was bloviating, Ernie would sneak up to the side of him. Now Ernie had a “bit” where he would clean his horned rim glasses using his breechcloth while the actor carried on. It usually got a laugh. One night when Ernie came up out of the trunk, his breechcloth got caught somehow on the trunk, and unknown to him was back in the trunk. When he got to the “bit” with his glasses, he bent to clean them, realized the breechcloth was not there, and stood straight up with eyes wide open, in shock.
My mom, who had attended EVERY performance, was the only one who laughed. I’ll never forget her laugh.
And lastly, I took Sara to meet my mom right after we were married. By then mom had Alzheimer’s and would spend time with my sister living in Torrance. We got there, and as we visited, my mom started telling Sara about her son, who was a pastor in Laguna Hills, and that she might want to go to church there. She was talking about me.
I was sitting right next to her at the time.
My mom still remembered me even though she didn’t recognize me. It was quite a moment. It was also the last time I saw my mom.
Sunday is Mother’s Day. I’ll be thinking of my mom, and all she has been for me, her love, her laugh, her chili. Happy Mother’s Day, Mom!
The Rev. Ron Griffen is lead pastor of First United Methodist Church in El Centro.