She Knew She Was Right April 2, 2016 21:09

I have always had a bit of a problem with Mother’s Day - it is a question of the position of that apostrophe... 

My mother died when I was very young and so I was brought up by my grandmother. My father’s mother was over 80 when she took on the unenviable task of moving in with us to help my father raise three young children but there was never any question about her role in the house – she was always his “Mother” and our “Grandma”. 

In my first year at school I came across the first of many implacable rulings about compulsory participation regardless of one’s circumstances and it would seem regardless of the position of the apostrophe!  Our teacher declared that we were all going to make a card for Mother’s Day.  I duly pointed out to the nun who was teaching the class that this was not necessary for me to do because there was no mother at home to receive such a card.  Perhaps it was my tone of voice or perhaps it was all the trouble that Sister Bernadette was having with the distribution of paper, scissors and pots of glue but she snapped back with “Don’t you worry about that young lady, you can still give the card to your grandmother”.  “No Sister” I remonstrated, “I can’t because Grandma is not my mother”.  “Well don’t you try splitting hairs young lady, she will do well enough, so sit down and start on making your [blessed] card”.  “No Sister”, I persisted, “Daddy says that Mummy is now in heaven and isn’t coming home again and he also says that Grandma is very old and she is not our mother or our servant so we should all try to do more things for ourselves.”

Looking back to my pedantic six year old self I can imagine that Sister Bernadette only just restrained herself from giving me a quick slap (which was the nun’s usual method of making a point with an unusually bold or stupid child). She tried a different tack, perhaps feeling some pity for a motherless child, and said cheerily “Well that’s alright then dear, you can just make it and give it to me!”  “But Sister” I replied (somewhat scandalised by the very idea), “you're a Sister not a Mother”.  Sister Bernadette thought about that for a moment and said, “Well then Anne, you can make the card and we can both give it to Mother Tarcisius who is the Mother in our convent and therefore to our whole school”.  This early introduction to Jesuitical logic unfortunately made me concede and I duly made the card.

However as an adult with a somewhat keener appreciation of the role of the possessive apostrophe I believe that I was completely in the right and should have argued harder. It is Mother’s Day (using the singular possessive, therefore any action taken can only relate to one person or mother) and not some generalised Mothers' Day (the plural possessive would imply a celebration of the general status of mothers or the authority of motherhood). So I should have maintained my position - no mother, no card.

After all I did not even like Mother Tarcisius, she was truly scary and carried a really big leather strap which she regularly used. The only thing I wanted to give her was a wide berth!

BUT for those of you who actually do have a need to give a card or a gift to your mother on May 8th, then Paper Parrot has many beautiful and suitable cards and gifts to choose from!