Domestic Bliss 

I used to think Mother's Day was sort of a trophy day -- you know, the day you get rewarded for being someone's mother, or the day you reward your mother for being there all those years.

Truth be told, it felt like amends -- here, Mom, we'll give you breakfast in bed to thank you for being our doormat; here, Mom, flowers to make up for all the times I told you I hated you or came home inexplicably late or neglected you or lied to you while you labored over yet another nutritious, tasty and largely unappreciated meal.

Mother's Day has become a gross redundancy -- another day to commemorate what is as indelible as a concentration camp survivor's brand -- the declaration/affirmation: I am a mother. The role has become more complicated since the '70s and the women's movement, but it is no less revered and obsessed over by society. In fact, I think mothers obsess more now about being mothers than at any other time in history -- what other generation has grappled so viciously, so publicly, so contentiously over what it actually means to be a mother?

Something came across my desk recently that got me rethinking Mother's Day after so many years in a box-of-candy-induced fog. This year on Mother's Day, women from across America will converge on the nation's Capitol, and on individual state capitols, to protest gun violence and the senseless loss of their children to death by bullets. Mothers, stepmothers, teachers, daughters and sisters will demand common sense gun laws this Mother's Day, and I'm betting on results down the line. Legislation and consciousness raising won't likely occur overnight, but this is not a cause that mothers and others will give up lightly. To borrow a well-wrought phrase from the movies, they're mad as hell and they're not going to take it any more.

Even mothers who support the individual's right to bear arms, according to the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution, are fed up with the hideous, bloody bullet wound that has become our country's claim to fame -- the highest rate of death by gun of any other "civilized" country in the world, especially among our children, whether to suicide, homicide or by accident.

This millennium Mother's Day event harks back to the actual origins of the holiday -- way back in the 1870s when Julia Ward Howe, author of the lyrics to "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" organized Mother's Peace Day. Howe, who was struck, after writing her famous words, by the number of mourning mothers who had lost their sons in wars, asked the question women dared not ask publicly: "Why do not the mothers of mankind interfere in these matters, to prevent the waste of that human life of which they alone bear and know the cost?"

Mother's Peace Day was set aside to celebrate the tender values of human life represented by motherhood. Over the years it attained other connotations and associations, with the emphasis on tender, and eventually, like most American holidays, became a commercial blowout designed to sell dinners, carnations, dresses and boxes of candy.

This year, moms across American are taking back Mother's Day.

I haven't decided yet whether I will march -- May 14 is prime garden planting day here in Colorado, and I'm counting the days until I can put in my beans and other warm weather seeds. But you can bet that on this Mother's Day, 2000, I'll be talking to my three sons about gun violence, whether or not they want to hear it. And if I'm not in Denver, my prayers and thoughts will be with the mothers who march on the Capitol, the ones who deserve a reward, the ones bearing the standard.

This Mother's Day, as I dig into the black soil and watch earthworms uncoil from winter lethargy, I'll think of the mothers I know who have lost a child to a gun -- to hatred, despair or just plain ignorance acted out with lethal hardware. It won't remove all the other dangers my kids or anybody else's kids face in a crazy, mixed-up world, but it'll be a start.

And the message to our children will be clear -- we gave birth to you, we fed you, we bathed you, we watched you grow up, and we don't want your life to end at the brunt of a sudden, thoughtless blast of metal and gunpowder.

-- Denver's Civic Center will be the site of the Colorado Million Mom March on Mother's Day, May 14. All concerned moms, and those related to a mom are urged to join in the march, which begins at 1:30 p.m. For more info, call 303/412-5665 or 888/989-MOMS, or surf to http;//www.millionmommarch.com


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