In honor of our mothers

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By John Pawlak

This Sunday is Mother’s Day. You can’t escape the piles of boxes of chocolates or smell of flowers in the stores, and the onslaught of jewelry commercials on television.
 French novelist and playwright, Honoré de Balzac, wrote, “The heart of a mother is a deep abyss at the bottom of which you will always find forgiveness.”
 Ain’t it the truth? When the Boston Marathon bomber’s mother rushed to his defense, people immediately condemned her for advocating his innocence. One can easily argue politics and religion, but I simply chalk it up to her being a mother. It’s just what mothers do.
 So what is it that makes a mother a “Mom?” What makes a 210-pound man sheepishly hang him head and say, “Yes Mom,” when told to wipe his feet when he enters the house?
 Moms have always held a special place in our society. I remember my father getting out of the car, walking around to the other side, and opening the door for my mother.
 There was no doubt who ran our house.
 But it does make one wonder. Did Albert Einstein’s mother get on his case about his hair? Was Napoleon Bonaparte’s hand just hiding his report card from his mother? Did Thomas Edison’s mother scold him for staying up late, constantly yelling, “Turn off that damn light!”?
 Don’t underestimate the power of motherhood.
 The 19th Amendment gave women the right to vote. The amendment passed in 1920 when Tennessee became the 36th state to ratify it. The ratification passed by one vote.
 That passing vote came from Harry T. Burn, a young member of the state legislature. He had intended to vote “Nay,” but Mom had different plans. His mother sent him a letter, saying “don’t forget to be a good boy” and telling him to vote for ratification.
 With mother’s letter in hand, he voted “Aye” and made history. Harry was terrified at what the anti-suffrage lawmakers would do to him, but he was more afraid of going against his mother’s wishes.
 What better example of the power mothers wield over the weaker gender of our species?
 The world’s first mother was an Australopithecus afarensis (early human) named Lucy. At 3.2 million years old, she was discovered in northern Africa by Donald Johanson.
 Long before Lucy, named in honor of the Beatles’ song “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,” started the trend of motherhood, mothers were a force of nature. Literally.
 Gaia (Mother Earth) created Uranus (the sky), providing us with a blanket of comfort to sleep under.
Mother Goddesses dominated early religions — Egypt’s Mut and Isis, Aztec’s Toci and Tlazolteotl and Mesopotamia’s Ninsun. Mother Earth has always been at the center of admiration and praise.
Alexander the Great apparently learned how to beat people into submission by his mother, Olympias, a ruthless politician in her own right. After being dumped by King Phillip II of Macedon, Olympias had Phillip assassinated and his new wife and child killed. What is it they say about a woman scorned?
History celebrates a long list of famous mothers. Elizabeth Stanton (women’s rights activist), Grandma Moses (American folk artist), Marie Curie (scientist), Harriet Tubman (abolitionist), Indira Gandhi (prime minister of India), Victoria Woodhull (first female candidate for President of the United States), Josephine Baker (assisted the French underground resistance during World War II).
Julia Ward Howe, a fervent abolitionist, wrote the words to “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” She is also credited for being the first to propose a “Mother’s Day.” Her Mother’s Day Proclamation of 1870 was a cry for disarmament and peace.
Howe and Olympias probably would not have been best friends.
Mother’s Day, as we know it, did not culminate until 1907. It was realized by Ann Jarvis, an Appalachian mother who worked to establish a day of recognition of mothers in support of social activism. In 1914, it became a nationally recognized holiday.
All the greatest figures of our past; scientists and inventors, political and military leaders, writers and poets, philosophers and theologians, artists and explorers, had one thing in common. They all had mothers.
And it’s a good bet that they too, like all of us, wiped their feet at the door when visiting their moms!