Alas, another Mother's Day is upon us -- that day set aside to honor mothers everywhere for their undying thoughtfulness, dedication and selflessness.
Is there a gift under the sun worthy of such devotion, we wonder? And will we discover it in time? And as for Mom, does she really need another Hallmark holiday with a couple of kids underfoot?
"Why bother?" we might ask.
First of all, let's get in the spirit of things here. Contrary to what the cynics say, Mother's Day is not an invention of the greeting card industry. In fact, its roots go back to May 9, 1905, when the mother of Anna Jarvis of Philadelphia died.
Miss Jarvis, in strictest devotion to her dear mother, set about to make the anniversary of her departure a state holiday. Oddly enough, in 1913 she succeeded.
In the following year, the second Sunday in May was made a national holiday honoring every mother in the country, by proclamation of President Woodrow Wilson. We've been sending cards and flowers and other symbols of our affection to our mothers ever since.
Some women say Mother's Day wouldn't be such a bad idea if it weren't for one problem inherent in being a mother: children. But, while it might make sense to them to ditch the kids for the day -- after all this is supposed to be your day, Mom -- most women feel too much guilt to really consider it seriously. And this is, after all, a serious matter, when you consider all the trouble poor Anna went to way back when.
The key to getting through Mother's Day successfully, it seems, is to realize this holiday tends to revolve around one of a few recurrent themes: food, flowers, fun and family. If you can stick to one of these themes, you can't go wrong.
With this in mind, we've compiled some Mother's Day options for families this year. Keep in mind that these are merely suggestions and that if you have your own inspiration, by all means go with it. In the meantime, consider the following:
* Food: Brunch is probably the most popular meal for celebratory occasions. And just because your kids are too young to be trusted near stemware and lace tablecloths doesn't mean you can't partake. The trick is to pick a place where kids will be comfortable.
"If you're going to make kids get all dressed up, don't make them sit for three hours, too," says Chef Guy Reinbold, who runs the Mother's Day brunch at Windows, the "fancy" restaurant at Stouffer's Harborplace Hotel.
Knowing that kids can't sit still for long in their Sunday best, Mr. Reinbold has made some interesting innovations in his dining room this year -- including a knee-high buffet table just for kids. It serves pizza, hamburgers, mashed potatoes and other recognizable food, while the adult buffet nearby offers poached halibut with leek sauce and other things kids can't pronounce.
When the kids finish at the mini buffet, they can head over to the "card" table and make Mom a Mother's Day card out of marzipan and candy decorations. Aprons, napkins and an experienced pastry chef monitoring the icing are provided.
"That way kids don't feel so out of place and it gives mom a chance to sit and talk with grown-ups for a while," says the experienced chef. He should know. He has two kids of his own.
If the brunch idea won't work, you can always accept breakfast in bed. A homemade card, a couple hugs from the kids and a plate of pancakes might be just the ticket for some moms.
But be sure you get a commitment from Dad or another adult in the house that the kitchen cleanup is part of the gift. Nothing spoils a Mother's Day breakfast in bed faster than a messy kitchen awaiting you when you do get up.
* Flowers: For some reason, you're not considered a very reputable mother if you're not fond of flowers. So try to fit them in tomorrow. If you can't take flowers to Mom, take Mom to the flowers. There are plenty of opportunities near and far.
At Clifton Park in northeastern Baltimore, for instance, they're holding the first annual Mother's Day Garden Dedication. The garden is being dedicated to the late philanthropist Marie Bauernschmidt, who died in 1962.
"Our goal is to put a mother's garden in every city park," said Mary Alice Butts, coordinator of the city-sponsored project.
She says Clifton was chosen for the first year because there is already a mother's garden there that has recently fallen into disrepair. Actually, it's fallen into disrepair twice now, but who's counting.
The garden was first dedicated in 1926. Abandoned over time, it was later revived and rededicated by Mayor William Donald Schaefer in 1984 to his late mother, Tululu Irene Schaefer. He planted a cherry tree there in her honor that year. Now the garden is in need of another revival. So take a potted mum and plant it in the name of your mum.
Or visit another Baltimore treat, Sherwood Gardens in Guilford -- it's free -- and take a picnic with you. You can do the same at Ladew Topiary Gardens, just north of Jacksonville, in Harford County, though there is an admission charge there.