Today is an especially appropriate day for me to pay tribute to mothers, mine and those in my life, and to my father because today, May 14th, is also my dad’s birthday. Had he lived he would have been 96 years old today. The title of a song by Fred Fisher from around the beginning of the 20th century, “Daddy, you’ve been a mother to me,” enables me to tie today’s holiday celebrating mothers with the fact that it is his birthday, and I can reflect on them both and their contributions to my life.
Honoring your father and mother just isn’t what it used to be. As I was searching for the author of the song I mentioned above, I discovered an interesting piece titled, “I’d walk a million miles for one of your smiles,” by Charles Marowitz, written coincidentally on my birthday last year, in which he traces the de-evolution of American attitudes towards motherhood. He says …
Mom’s most ebullient champion was Al Jolson who, folded on one knee with a catch in his throat and a tear in his eye, declared that he would “walk a million miles, for one of her smiles” for she was his irreplaceable “mammy.”
In today’s popular music, one is more likely to encounter “Mother” with a six letter extension added, an inescapable expletive in rap music. In the minds of most kids between 13 and 21, “mother” is simply an abbreviation for that 12-letter obscenity.
I am old enough, and perhaps sentimental enough, to be more in tune with the early 20th Century attitude toward motherhood than I am with the current attitudes, so Mother’s Day is a day to enjoy the memory of my own mother, whom I called by her first name, Grace. I don’t know how to explain that aberration, except perhaps to note that I followed the lead of my father, Willie, who called her that, and she tolerated it. I never discovered whether she wanted it that way or not. Ironically, I called my dad Daddy, so my parents were known to me as Grace and Daddy. I can only observe that families and their customs are strange.
There are a lot of different ways of mothering, each mother having her own style. There are good ones and bad ones and a few who don’t have a clue. But all of them, like all the rest of us I suppose, do the best they can. For that I salute them and honor their efforts to guide their children into adulthood. And I hope they (you) all enjoy being recognized and celebrated today.
And as I was taught to close my nightly prayer on bended knee, I’ll close this tribute with the last line of that prayer now. “God bless Grace and Daddy wherever they are.”