A friendly reminder from way across the Hallmark aisle: Next Sunday is Mother's Day.
This holiday was originally envisioned by social activist Julia Ward Howe after the horrors of the Civil War.
Howe intended to unite women against war, and in 1870 wrote the Mother's Day Proclamation, a treatise for peace and disarmament. However, the holiday didn't receive formal recognition until 1908, when Anna Jarvis adopted the cause, altering it as a day to honor our very own Ma. Jarvis saw Mother's Day as a private affair, and later went bankrupt fighting the viral commercialization of the holiday. A greeting card is a sorry excuse for a handwritten letter, Jarvis insisted.
Maybe it's fortunate that Jarvis didn't live to see the e-card, but one thing that hasn't changed in 100 years is how motherhood cracks open your heart with the subtlety of a hammer. We finger the eerie, soft skulls of our newborns and swim in their inkwell eyes, and we're transformed forever. It's like your brain gets remodeled. Your self gets tucked back behind the shabby sofa, jockeying for space with marital relations and sleep, while all remaining brain function is funneled into keeping this tiny, gassy human alive.
You may watch, slightly bewildered, as your former identity is whisked away in a speedy curtain change and the set crew replaces the tools of your trade with a rocking chair and nursing pillow. But you'll soon notice how that little one fits like a puzzle piece in your arms, so seamlessly, you may wonder what occupied that space before.
We mothers become giants, imbued with the strength to hoist literal and figurative automobiles off our children when we sense danger. And yet, with the locks on our hearts picked open by small, sticky fingers, we shatter to a million pieces when confronted with the suffering of others. Because when you gaze into your infant's depthless eyes, your shell cracks and the whole world stares back at you.
The joys of motherhood are like pebbles on the river's shore, ordinary, ubiquitous and continually shifting. So are the burdens. If you try to grab hold to either, they will slide through your fingers, just as your children someday will too. There's no prestige in mothering, certainly no money. It's not the path to a tranquil, stress-free life, or an orderly house. But the feel of this small, tender-skinned hand in yours as you walk toward the park is enough.
You don't need a Hallmark card to tell you motherhood is a blessing. Nor do you need a chorus of grannies to tell you it goes by so very fast. These things you've noticed.
Maybe someday, as Howe and Jarvis hoped, both peace and handwritten love notes to our mothers will be fashionable. Until then, Mamas, the rivers of child-raising are deep and wide; there is no shore, just an occasional slippery rock to grab hold of, watching as your gorgeous children splash and play.
Rachel Turiel's column runs the first and third Sunday. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.