This coming Sunday will be Mother’s Day.
Years ago on that special day, it was traditional for both men and women to wear a corsage or boutonniere indicating whether the wearer’s mother was living or deceased. Mother’s Day was one of the busiest days on the calendar for florists. Often, they worked into the night and even until morning in order to fill their many orders and deliver them to homes. Red roses or carnations signified honoring a mother who was living, while a white rose or carnation indicated the mother was deceased. Some mothers received orchids if the giver could afford them.
On Mother’s Day Sunday, women, especially in church congregations, wore a red or white bouquet. I was able to earn my mother’s corsage and mine by working for Susong Florist which became in later years Francis Flowers. In a way, that tradition is no longer practiced because attendees at Sunday services today are less formal than those of yesteryear. It was such a pleasure to honor my mother by working at the aforementioned local florist by helping to deliver the many corsages ordered to be sent all over town by offspring and spouses.
In my front yard on Cumberland Avenue, there is a beautiful snowball bush. I can remember vividly that many gentlemen from Georgetown stopped and snipped a snowball and placed it in their left lapels on their way to church on Mother’s Day. George Phelps was one of the gentleman who availed himself of one of those white boutonnieres year after year. He was custodian in several churches as well as Harlan High School.
A special song honoring mothers comes to mind and here are the words which were composed in 1915 by a gentleman by the name of Howard Johnson. The first time I heard the song it was sung by a Jewish friend, Jimmy Friedman, whose parents owned and operated a jewelry store in Harlan for many years.
M - O - T - H - E - R
“M” is for the million things she gave me,
“O” means only that she’s growing old,
“T” is for the tears she shed to save me,
“H” is for her heart of purest gold;
“E” is for her eyes, with love-light shining,
“R” means right, and right she’ll always be,
Put them all together, they spell
A word that means the world to me.
Mother’s Day originated in America and was founded by West Virginia native Anna Jarvis. Anna’s mother, Ann Jarvis, had founded Mothers’ Day Work Clubs in five cities to improve sanitary and health conditions. The Mothers’ Day Work Clubs also treated wounds, fed and clothed both Union and Confederate soldiers with neutrality.
On May 12, 1907, two years after her mother’s death, Anna held a memorial to her mother and thereafter embarked upon a campaign to make “Mother’s Day” a recognized holiday. She succeeded in making the day nationally recognized in 1914. The holiday was adopted by other countries and it is now celebrated all over the world. In this tradition, each person offers a gift, card, or remembrance toward their mothers, grandmothers, and/or maternal figure on Mother’s Day.
On Sunday, let us all honor our mothers in our hearts and remember these lines from the aforementioned song, “MOTHER, A word that means the world to me.”