Kinsley located Drago on the park bench and motioned to Fergus. “Come on. He’s here today!”
Kinsley glanced at her mother and she glanced at Drago. She shrugged and went back to texting on her phone. “Don’t talk to him too long. He’s an old man. You don’t want to wear him out.”
Brea, Kinsley’s younger sister, followed them to the park bench beside the fountain. Drago sat slumped on the bench, but he straightened and drew in a deep breath. Slowly, he let out his breath in three healthy smoke rings. The children gathered around him and watched in amazement. He arranged his tail over the bench and gave them a crafty dragon smile.
“What is your question today, my young children?”
Fergus looked at Kinsley and when she nodded, he launched the question they all had decided to ask.
“Sunday is Mother’s Day. Dad said it started as a pagan festival to honor goddesses.”
Drago leaned back and let his amber gaze travel over each of them, blinking slowly, as dragons do. He folded his hands over his cane and fixed his attention on Fergus.
“Did you know that the woman who worked so hard to put Mother’s Day on the modern calendar spent the rest of her life trying to take it off?”
Kinsley and Brea sat on the grass in front of Drago, but Fergus shook his head and stood silently beside him. This was going to be another good story.
Drago sighed. “It is true that the Greeks and Romans held festivals in honor of the mother goddesses Rhea and Cybele, but that isn’t the Mother’s Day celebrated today.” He patted the bench beside him with long clawed fingers. Fergus accepted his invitation and sat down beside him, gazing up at the dragon with an awed expression.
Drago placed his cane between his legs and leaned on it. “In Europe, they also had a Mothering Sunday. It was a Christian Festival held the fourth Sunday in Lent. People would return to their Mother Church – the place nearest their home – and have a special service…but that isn’t the Mother’s Day celebrated today, either.”
He looked at each of them. “Before the Civil War, a lady named Ann Reeves Jarvis started a “Mother’s Day Work Club” to instruct women on how to take care of their children. Later, after the Civil war, she started a “Mother’s Friendship Day.” You see, the country was still divided in 1868, and mothers got Union and Confederate soldiers together in hopes of helping them get along together.”
Drago paused and turned his head as he coughed, shooting orange flames three feet away. Then he turned back to them. “So, you see, even then it wasn’t the Mother’s Day celebrated today. Then, along came an abolitionist and suffrage advocate named Julia Ward Howe in 1870, and she took it to a new level. She wrote a “Mother’s Day Proclamation” that urged mothers to unite in promoting world peace. In 1873 she campaigned for a “Mother’s Peace Day” that should be celebrated every second day in June.”
Fergus frowned. “But that still isn’t why we celebrate Mother’s Day today.”
“No.” Drago coughed again and sizzled an ant on the concrete bench. “Have you ever heard of someone called “The Father of Mother’s Day?”
They all agreed that they had not heard of anyone like that.
“Well, Mary Towles Sasseen and Frank Hering worked to organize a Mother’s Day in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. After Ann Reeves Jarvis died in 1905, her daughter decided that there should be a Mother’s Day that honored the sacrifices mothers made for their children. Anna Jarvis had the first Mother’s Day celebration in May of 1908 at a Methodist church in Grafton, West Virginia. After that, she campaigned to get a national day honoring motherhood. She established a “Mother’s Day International Association. Then, in 1914, President Woodrow Wilson signed a measure, officially making Mother’s Day the second Sunday in May.”
Fergus looked up at Drago. “And then she tried to get rid of it?”
Drago hung his big head. “Well, yes, after she realized that businesses were using it to make money and destroying the purpose. She tried to get people to stop buying Mother’s Day flowers, cards and candies. She wanted people to simply honor their mothers. She even spent most of her money in lawsuits against groups using the name Mother’s Day to make a fortune. By the time she died in 1948, she was so disappointed that she had disowned the holiday she created and was lobbying the government to get it removed from the American calendar.”
Fergus thought about it a few minutes. “But we still celebrate it.”
“Yes, and so do other countries. Thailand celebrates it in August, on the birthday of their queen, Sirikit. In Ethiopia, families get together and sing songs and have a feast to celebrate Antrosht – honoring motherhood.”
Kinsley finally asked a question. “But how are we supposed to celebrate Mother’s Day?”
Drago looked down at her with his strange amber eyes. “Honor your mother. You don’t have to buy her gifts or flowers. You can do some chores for her so she can rest – maybe even gather a few wild flowers for her and put them in a vase.”
Brea nodded enthusiastically. “Daddy makes breakfast on Mother’s Day and I help him wash the dishes.”
Fergus stood. “It doesn’t matter when or how we celebrate Mother’s Day, as long as we take time to honor our mothers. We could do it every day.”
Drago gave him a big dragon smile. “That’s the spirit. Start your own tradition.”
“Boy, wait ‘till I tell Dad!”
They left Drago smiling and when they went back to Mom, she looked at Drago. “I don’t know what you told him, but it looks like you made him happy.” She put an arm around Kinsley and Brea. “I’m proud of you for making an old man’s day brighter.”
Fergus grinned at them and ran off to join his father. Maybe next time they came, Drago could tell them something interesting about Father’s Day.”