Off the Press

May 1, 2012

By David Hayes

Finally, a Hallmark holiday I can support

David Hayes Press reporter

I have long used this space to spout off against contrived occasions (Valentine’s Day, I’m talking about you).

However, when it comes to Mother’s Day, I think this is one deserving observance that the country got right.

Think about it — take any athlete, growing up, playing catch with Dad, being taught how to throw a curve ball or that perfect spiral. After successfully navigating all the levels of sports, from amateur to professional, and as that television camera pans over to him, what’s the first words that come out of his mouth?

“Hi, Mom.”

Although I never made it into professional sports, it was with my own mom that I first got behind the wheel of the family car and attempted to navigate city streets. I do believe that’s also where I first observed that anxiety really does cause white knuckles.

We are actually about two years away from the 100th anniversary of the establishment of Mother’s Day. Thanks to the tireless efforts of Anna Jarvis, of Grafton, W.Va., a national holiday was created by President Woodrow Wilson in 1914.

Over the years, Hallmark has tried its darndest to commandeer the holiday for profit. But I’ve grown to see the light that to get me to adulthood and out the door, my mother deserves a day to call all her own.

Sometimes, after listening to my mother’s own stories of growing up, I’m surprised she survived her own childhood.

Having grown up in a small household, in very rural Warroad, Minn., with 14 brothers and sisters (That is not a typo, but rather the results of a practicing Catholic family), my mom played the strangest games to pass the time.

For example, in their backyard was an old, abandoned refrigerator. She’d have contests with her siblings to see who could stay in it the longest (I guess if you died, you won).

Also, they’d play a version of chicken. They’d stand so far apart, and chuck a pocket knife at the ground next to each other’s feet and see who wouldn’t flinch. After two successful throws, they’d move back a pace and repeat the process, usually until someone’s foot got perforated.

Knowing I could never top my mom’s reckless childhood, I think the worst I ever got involved in was dirt clod fights.

But as a child of the typical nuclear family, I was the beneficiary of a stay-at-home mom while my dad was the one who went off to work each day. If I ever scraped my knee, she was the one there to clean it with peroxide. When I brought home a report card, she got the proud, first look (usually just one or two Bs marring straight As).

And it was my mom who delivered the single most memorable punch line in my life, although it wasn’t too funny until many years later with much hindsight.

While in the Navy and stationed in Scotland, I tried to call home collect one day. My mom answered the phone, and when the operator asked if she’d like to accept a collect call from David, without skipping a beat, she said, “No, tell him to write.” And she hung up, leaving the poor operator to ask, “Umm, do you want to call anyone else?” Stunned, I could only answer, “No, that’s OK.”

Life lessons can be harsh or humorous, but they’re usually memorable when delivered by Mom. Tell us your most remarkable stories about your mom. As a page designer, I’d love to package them so our readers can enjoy them together. Chocolates are full of empty calories, roses wilt away, but memories of Mom that last a lifetime are worth sharing.

David Hayes: or 392-6434, ext. 237. Comment at

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