Who’s First In Line?

Maxine Stone

My mother’s mother, my grandma Jenny, didn’t have to be concerned about Mother’s Day. There was no such thing until it became a national holiday in 1914. My mother was born in 1900 and was the oldest of three sisters. I doubt that Jenny’s daughters were concerned about this holiday—they were too busy looking for husbands.

My mother, Sadie, was trying to keep her head above water. She was too tired to be interested in Mother’s Day. Later in her life, when times got easier, she became aware of how nice it was to have a holiday that celebrates her. When my brother and I were out of the nest, more mature and busy with our own pleasures, we each honored our mom by sending at least a card to show her we cared. As my brother and I each married and had our own kids, gift giving joined the list of ways to show our appreciation of mother’s sacrifices. The gifts we gave mom were not always in touch with her needs or wish list and were rarely on the mark, but we tried. Restaurants to celebrate the day were unfortunately chosen not in keeping with my mother’s digestive problems and were considered too fancy. We didn’t understand the vicissitudes of aging. But she smiled throughout dinner, not letting on that she had a problem with her gall bladder.

Difficult situations arose when I became a mother. My husband explained that the children were too small to understand the significance of the holiday, so we celebrated with his mom. The children came along for the ride and a rich dessert. I graciously surrendered my place of honor—after all, she was the senior mother. Then again, what about my mother? She also got a visit, family in tow. We wound up eating a filling meal—twice, so as not to slight her. But, of course, we wound up with indigestion, too.

My kids made an attempt to celebrate with me when they became adults, but they also had difficulties. My daughter-in-law had an obligation to her mother, too. Her kids wanted to spend the day with their other grandma. So, who comes first? It’s hard to keep track with so many mothers in line for celebration. The situation gets complicated and becomes a log jam. The mother list grows longer each year.

And the dilemma worsens when the grandchildren grown up. Who should they take out for a Chinese meal or brunch in a fancy restaurant? Their wife, mother, grandmother, mother-in-law? Feelings get hurt and hard feelings are written with bile. Arguments between husbands and wives make the day a nightmare unless they come to some agreement.

The solution might be to have all the mothers gather together for one big celebration. I’m not sure how that would go, it might cause too many transportation problems and complicate everything.

Another solution might be to allot a given time to distribute good will to each parent. Though traveling back and forth might be exhausting, at least no one will be left out. Of course, this solution won’t work for the mothers who aren’t happy with their time slot.

But, these details should be put aside. Try to enjoy the day no matter how it works out. We should be grateful that mom is still here to accept our love. If she has left us, we can celebrate her memory. For those who live a distance away, flowers will put a smile on the recipient’s face. Circumstances change with the natural order of things, so don’t make yourself crazy trying to solve this predicament.

Most of moms will just be happy that all is well in the family and will accept a phone call as “due diligence.” If you have been attentive throughout the year and continue to show your love and appreciation, that will be the best gift of all—one that keeps giving.


  1. I was fascinated by your EXPRESSWAY ESSAY in Newsday because it mirrored my reactions, so much so that I might have written it. The same was true of MATZAH BALLS in the Great Neck Record. Thank you

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