Mothering Sunday

if you’re American, Mother’s Day is the second Sunday in May. But if you’re British, Mothering Sunday is the fourth Sunday in Lent. Because we socialize with lots of Brits here in Spain, I now get to enjoy two celebrations of motherhood!

The origins of Mothering Sunday apparently lie in the Middle Ages. The day is said to have been inspired by the some of the lectionary readings for this week in Lent. Specifically, passages from Isaiah and Galatians read in this week refer to Jerusalem as “mother. Church leaders inferred from this a command for the faithful to return to the mother church – literally. Congregants were enjoined to return on this date to the church where they were baptized. This was generally not much of a hardship, because most people didn’t move from the area where they were born. If you weren’t near that church, you could go to a cathedral, which was considered the mother of all churches. Later, another tradition was added. Girls in domestic service were allowed a day off to go visit their mothers on this Sunday. Special cakes were and still are baked for Mothering Sunday. Now, of course, flowers, chocolates, cards, visits, and phone calls have been added into the celebratory mix.

This Mothering Sunday was a special one, as our family was celebrating the birth of Harriet Ruth Moffitt. She is the daughter of our daughter Jane and our son-in-law, JJ Moffitt. Harriet was born on March 11 and is gloriously adorable. Because of privacy concerns, I’m not posting a picture of her. So you’ll have to trust me on the adorable part.

Instead, I’ve posted a picture of my mother, Jane Ellen Crissey Tullos. She was born in 1926 in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, and died in 2006 in Beaumont, Texas. In between, she lived through the Great Depression, WWII, marriage to my father, and the raising of us three kids. She adored children, especially the little ones, and was a beloved mother to us and several of our friends. Later, she became a precious Gramby to her three grandchildren, Ellen, Jane, and Mary. The picture I’ve posted here was taken on our wedding day, and you can see her joy in getting to add Mark to her list of beloved people.

But that was then, and this is now, and it’s Jane’s turn to be Mom. I’ve become Gramgram, and Mark is now Pops. We’re headed to the USA next week to see all of our darling kiddos, and I CAN’T WAIT. It’s a three-day trip, due to the paucity of flights between Spain and the USA right now, but it’s a small inconvenience to endure to get to see our loved ones. I’m going to hug my children and hold my granddaughter. That’s pretty much the only agenda items that matter for this trip. Oh, yes, and I’m going to buy a gigantic jar of decent peanut butter to bring back to Spain.

Harriet’s birth, of course, has prompted me to think about the other mothers in our line. This is particularly true with regard to my mother’s mother’s mother, Harriet Samantha Lapham Heermans. Jane and JJ honored her memory by selecting her name for their baby, and by all accounts they picked a remarkable woman as a namesake. Harriet was born in Morrison, Illinois in 1877. She had several siblings, including a younger sister named Sibyl (which was her mother’s name). In the late 1890s the family cow contracted tuberculosis. Sibyl, who was about 14 at the time, got TB from the cow’s milk and was not doing well in the cold Midwestern climate. So Harriet, who was all of 20, packed up her suitcase and her sister and headed for a warmer area. She bought tickets to Flagstaff, Arizona (which is not officially in the USA at this point, because Arizona didn’t become a state until 1912). The two met a friendly railroad conductor somewhere along the way, who took an interest in them and advised them not to go to Flagstaff, as it was relatively wet and cool. He changed their tickets on the spot for ones to Phoenix, and that’s where they went to live.

In Phoenix , Harriet met Paul Heermans, and they married in October 1897. Sadly, Sibyl only lived long enough to play the piano at their wedding. Harriet went on to bear three children, one of whom died as a young boy. Harriet was a suffragist and helped support the family by selling homemade fudge to soldiers from Fort Bliss when times were tough with Paul’s printing business in El Paso. She was known for her kindness and sense of humor. She died before I was born, but her grandchildren adored her and told lots of stories about her.

So that’s where Harriet gets her first name. (I assume that the existence of Harriet Tubman was an added incentive). It means “ruler of the home,” which is probably pretty accurate right now. Ruth is for Ruth Badger Ginsburg, who is much admired in our family. That name means “friend” in Hebrew and “compassion” in English. And while we probably all know that a person can be ruthless, it’s also true that a person can be ruthful. I like that.

So here’s to mothers, people who mother, and people who have or had mothers. They make us a lot of who we are. And please wish our family luck as we welcome the new addition. I need to stop writing, now, though, and get back to the serious business of being a grandmother. Those toys aren’t going to order themselves, people! Now, where did I put that credit card?

2 thoughts on “Mothering Sunday

  1. Excellent post, Kathy! I didn’t know Ruth means friend and compassion. That’s great. My mother’s sister is named Ruth and she is still alive at 90. Enjoy your visit back to the states. We look forward to seeing you and Mark again when you return to Spain.

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