Mother’s Day is one of those Hallmark Holidays I’ve always found confusing. My muddle goes back to my father’s view of the May Sunday. He hated it–probably because he hated his mother, though she was a huge presence in his life.
My grandmother, Ethel Graff, was a sad and manipulative presence for my father, who watched over her for much of his life after his father, Louis, died when my dad was 23. Although, my dad indicated to me that he took responsibility for her at a much younger age because his father just could not deal with her moods. Her most infamous, and to my father, most devastating, breakdown occurred on Mother’s Day. She felt slighted by her husband and children compared to other matriarchs in the extended Graff and Pinkert clans, and raised a gigantic fit. She threatened to take off her clothes and disrupt the Pinkerts’ Mother’s Day celebration. My father was mortified. My grandmother ended up in a psychiatric ward. After that Mother’s Day the holiday became a day to be dreaded and navigated.
My own mother understood my dad’s Mother’s Day woe, but she had a mother she loved and was obviously a mother herself and thought she deserved to be made a fuss over. But for my father it was the day to manage his mother’s jealousies and keep her out of the loony bin.
I observed the spectacle year after year. My mother was the good soldier, usually preparing a big family meal, with my grandma Graff getting premium treatment. The Graff children knew the program and played along with the charade as my grandmother would ask us who we liked better, our mother or our father. It was all so ridiculous, but to the three Graff kids it was just the way Mother’s Day was played.
For my wife, Risa, the Graff Mother’s Day cantata unfolded and she got into the spirit of the holiday after I told her the family lore.
My grandma Graff died in 1985, and my own mother passed away in 1993.
I try to honor my wife Risa every day, and our children are all close to her and loving. Mother’s Day in our family is card worthy, but not too much more. The baggage of Grandma Graff and the great Mother’s Day meltdown of 1938 still lives on and aches in my heart of hearts.
Question: Do you think there should be a Sibling’s Day, or a different new Hallmark Holiday?