The Origins of Mother’s Day

    

      

     Back in the days of legend, long before the Trojan war and the birth of Aeneas and also long before the awkward practice of polygamy was abolished, Venus had thirty-nine children. These children were all gods and goddesses or demigods and demigoddesses as the mortality or immortality of their father determined. Some were wood nymphs, and some were water nymphs; most were half-mortals, and some were gods, but all were of the goddess Venus. She thought it was simply wonderful having such a legacy to live after her. It was often difficult to find names for each one, but usually the father would kindly do so and raise the child as his own. Venus saw her children from time to time and looked out for them when they were in danger, but she never had to care for them herself once they were able to be adopted by their fathers. This was all changed one fateful day.

       Minerva, the so-called goddess of wisdom, thought it would be most beneficial for all her little half-cousins and second nephews and step-nieces to learn appreciation for Venus, their mother. So Minerva, with the full permission from her own mother, Juno, decreed that there must be a single day throughout the year when all children would visit their mothers and thank them for not allowing them to be eaten by wolves or other terrible creatures.

      “This day,” Minerva proclaimed, “will be called ‘The Day We Appreciate Our Most Estimable Mothers and Thank Them Graciously for Not Allowing Us to be Eaten by Wolves’.” All Peoples and Animals throughout the Earth and the Abode of the Gods heard of this, and all welcomed it with joy (with the exception of a few deeply insulted Wolves).

       Venus herself felt that this was a most wise and honorable decision and eagerly awaited the appointed day. When The Day arrived, Venus waited outside of her heavenly palace to greet all her children.

       The first one finally arrived. “Greetings, and a thousand times welcome are you on this Day of Days, my child!” Venus exclaimed. The baby (a Mortal girl) continued sucking her thumb happily and making gurgling noises in her throat.

       Her father said to Venus, “Most Estimable Mother of This Wonderful Child, here is your daughter. I have brought her to you, for today we appreciate our Mothers. I must be off to my own, dear Venus, so now it is your day to have your children all to yourself.” Venus wished him farewell and carried the child to the gates of her palace to await the arrival of the others. It was quite delightful, actually, holding her baby again. The little one gurgled and laughed happily. Finally Minerva had done something right, Venus thought. This was going to be a wonderful day.

       More of her children came until there were eleven toddlers, four infants, nineteen youths, and five adults. For a while, all were peaceable and happy. The elder children held the infants, and the toddlers bashfully hid behind their siblings. Their mother was a goddess, after all. Venus beamed at the crowd. Then she hurried from one to another, affectionately greeting them and taking down their names after asking her handmaidens to remain out of the way. This was Venus’ special day, which need not be interrupted for anything.

       Lengthy greetings in return began, mostly running along the lines of “Most Wonderful and Estimable Mother, today we thank and duly appreciate your kindness in bringing us into the world and protecting us from wolves and other terrible creatures that might have devoured us when we were still in our cradles and not yet weaned. We are terribly in your debt and do not know how to properly thank you enough.” The youngest children, however, said very little, and the infants only cooed, but Venus overlooked their lack of manners because they were so young. Then all the sons and daughters of Venus waited expectantly for an elaborate speech in return. They were not disappointed.

       “O thou most Wonderful Offspring of Venus, I welcome thee! Come into my palace and rejoice that you were born. I have indeed graciously cared for you (until you were old enough to live with your fathers, that is) and even protected you from terrible creatures, which was not part of the original contract; I did so out of the kindness and overwhelming generosity of my heart. Now that your glorious relative Minerva has made this a day to thank your Mother, I shall make your stay completely enjoyable and delightful. We are first to have the Great Olympics and then a grand Feast to commemorate our wonderful (albeit short) time together. Come inside…and do not forget to remove your sandals.”

       All entered Venus’ palace and were given a quick tour. They were amazed at the beauty of the furnishings and the elegance of the decorations. The youths (mostly the boys of ten to twelve years) looked longingly at the sumptuous spread for the Grand Feast. The young ladies gazed at the ballrooms and parlors.

       Venus turned to speak with her children, which was still unusual for her. She opened her mouth and was about to tell them to follow her to the fields for the Olympics when a toddler tugged on her skirt. She jumped back in shock but then smiled to see the little face staring at her. “What do you want to say…(she hastily scanned the list)…Iris the First?”

       Iris the First said, “Can I have a drink of water please, Mommy?”

      Venus smiled. “Of course. I will fetch you one myself.”

      Then a chorus of little voices said, “Me, too! Can I have some? How come Iris is the only one that gets water? I want water, too!” The older siblings looked embarrassed, but none offered to help as offering to help a goddess was a risky business. It implied that she might be incompetent. Venus was aware of this, but was, nonetheless, a little flustered. The eleven toddlers received their water just as the babies started wailing. Some of the boys found a few unused bows and arrows in a storage area and began targeting their sisters who shrieked in terror. Happily for all involved, none found their mark, but by then all the children were screaming and the adult siblings were yelling at them to be silent. The toddlers finished their water and started crying because it seemed the current social norm.

       Venus calmly and quietly said, “Now please, children, it is time to settle down. We shall have the Great Olympics next.” Not a single person heard her because the noise was deafening. Venus calmly walked over to a bronze gong and smacked it with its mallet. The noise was louder than even that of the children. And, Venus noticed, it sounded quite regal. She must ask her maidens to sound it for her grand entrances in the future. All her sons and daughters quieted (more or less), and she led them outside in great relief.

       The Olympics were an overwhelming success…until the horses bolted, and the children decided to act as gladiators. The chaos was eventually settled by the announcement that the Great Feast was ready. The children then stampeded into the palace, upsetting both the furniture and their frazzled Mother. They began voraciously eating, and the infants started crying again. Venus told herself that it was one day, just one day she had to watch all her children. She counted down the seconds… MMMCLVII, MMMCLVI, MMMCLV…and came to the conclusion that they would be with her for quite a while yet. She wondered why on earth Minerva had invented this terrible day. Venus was then interrupted in her thoughts by an uninvited arrow whizzing over her head. The boys had evidently not left those bows at the Games. The adult children began scolding again.

      This was too much to bear. “Quiet!” she yelled, rapidly losing her patience. No one heard. “I said be…QUIET!” And with that, Venus turned all her children into various kinds of chattering Songbirds, the first thing they reminded her of.

       Later that day, Venus humbly apologized to the fathers of her children and showed them the room with the thirty-nine little birds. Fearing their fathers’ wrath, the Songbirds sped out of the window into Venus’ royal garden, and there they stayed. Venus had a very nice garden, and the sounds of her thirty-nine children were forever after very sweet and delightful. These creatures became the ancestors of modern Songbirds today, who often fight with each other in loving memory of their quarrelsome great-grandparents. Minerva regretfully recalled her decree after a scathing report from a certain Venus.

Epilogue

       Some time after polygamy was rightfully abolished, the practice of thanking one’s mother was revived. The intention remains similar although some find it unnecessary to actually visit their mothers, for that occasionally causes difficulties. The name has also been changed from “The Day We Appreciate Our Most Estimable Mothers and Thank Them Graciously for Not Allowing Us to be Eaten by Wolves” to a much simpler one: “Mother’s Day.”

By Anna Maria

 

 

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