“God could not be everywhere, therefore he made mothers,” wrote Rudyard Kipling, an obnoxiously good and articulate son, who, if alive today, would have undoubtedly taken out time a week ago to craft some kind of haunting Mother’s Day devotional.
For the rest of us dilettantes, there is the Hallmark aisle and, more precisely, the special section dedicated for a fortnight annually to cards exclusively “For Mom.” An estimated 133 million will come off the shelves before dinnertime Sunday, but not before causing what some might call an undue surge in filial angst and declaiming against the purchase process.
Ah, yes: The process. Everyone has one, even those who insist they don’t. (Note: Especially them. Not having a process is a process.) Some of us pace the blighted aisle, wearing thinner those perpetually thinning card-store carpets, while others, like Princeton University social media guru Ian Cahir, are a bit more Zen about it.
“I stand in front of the card display and just let it wash over me,” he says, “and after five to 10 minutes, one or two of the cards just speak to me.
“This year, it was a Twitter-themed card since my mom doesn’t get Twitter.”
And then there is the curious case of Hannah Chase, a 27 year-old New Yorker, who, like the tech-baiting Cahir, enjoys cards with a “Freudian flare.”
“There was a period during which I bought cards that were clearly meant to be funny, but weren’t,” she recalls. “These issues usually have to do with how much the card-buyer loves, or hates, his or her mother. Oftentimes, these cards feature racy puns or pictures of men in bright red Speedos.”
Chase, who loves her mother, has by her own admission “dabbled in every card phase you can think of. “I’ve definitely been through a few religious card years, like ‘Jesus this, You Are a Gift,’” she said, a peccadillo she shares with more than a few of her puzzled contemporaries.
“I usually go ironic in cards,” says J.P., 27, son to a first-generation Italian-American, who asked to keep his surname under wraps for fear his mother might find this report, “either very religious or very Spanish, something [my mother and I] are both very not.”
Peter Margulies, 27, a schoolteacher in Baton Rouge, La., says the only “memorable” Mother’s Day card he has ever bought “was pretty hyper-Christian. There was a lot of ‘Let Jesus’ light shine down on you on this day’ stuff. We [Jewish people] had quite a laugh.”
But Mother’s Day isn’t all fun and games and chuckling at other peoples’ faithful declarations. Just ask that wonderful and caring stepmother in your midst.
“Young and exhausted” and very much aggrieved stepmother Nora Morris, of Elkins, W.V., points out that she and her peers “optionally put up with all of this, so we really deserve the cards.
“I feel totally overlooked,” she says in an email. “My husband and kids have looked, but have yet to find a card that says, ‘Even though we didn’t cause you hours and hours of unimaginable pain during labor, we want to thank you for all you do, day in and day out, and so we’re telling you now: We love and appreciate you!’
“If 50 percent of marriages end in divorce, and easily… Easily!… 25 percent of those get remarried, has the greeting card industry totally overlooked this market segment Like on this page, the options don’t have stepmother listed, just ‘like a mom’ – WTF is that?”
Morris is not the only one baffled by the often unique demands of constructing a successful Mother’s Day card and finding the appropriate template.
We’ll leave the last word to a recent law school grad, the Pittsburgher Mike Georger, 28. Here are his instructions:
“Go for the least amount of pre-printed text inside, and keep a running tally of how much money you’ve borrowed within the previous fiscal year to gauge how many lines you should write. The standard is one line for every $25.
“Last year I forgot to get a card so I just posted the video for Tupac’s “Dear Mama” on her Facebook page. In a pinch, that always works.”