A special Sunday - through a mother's lens
Celebrating moms is not a new phenomenon — it's been happening for centuries across countless cultures.
The ancient Greeks and Romans had celebrations and festivals for the mother goddesses Cybele and Rhea, respectively.
Christianity had Mothering Sunday, where the congregation would return to their "mothering church" for a festival and worship. In 1870, abolitionist and suffragette Julia Ward Howe wrote the "Mother's Day Proclamation" which was a call to action for world peace.
Our current incarnation of Mother's Day was conceived by West Virginia native Anna Jarvis in 1908 to honor the sacrifices of mothers, and it officially became a U.S. holiday in 1914. Tradition has evolved to include showering mothers with flowers, cards and other gifts to show appreciation — though for many the simple act of spending time together with loved ones is enough.
That's what Multnomah County Commissioner Lori Stegmann, District 4, loves most about the special Sunday. Whenever she gets free time — a rare occurrence — Stegmann enjoys walking at Multnomah Falls, watching television and cooking dinner with family. So rather than some elaborate Mother's Day plan, her day will be filled with quiet moments alongside her loved ones.
"Being able to spend time with my family and have fun together, that is what I most look forward to," she said.
Stegmann's daughter Rachel Fetters is a senior at Barlow High School. She also considers Rachel's best friend, Brynn, as her daughter.
"When you see the world through a mother's lens, it changes how you think about things," Stegmann said. "You start paying attention to how you want to change the world for your children."
She wants to teach her daughters how to be problem solvers.
"Being a mother teaches you how to be a good role model — logical and caring," Stegmann said. "I'm trying to give my kids, and the community, the tools they need to be successful."
Stegmann still fondly remembers the paintings and drawings Rachel would make for her as a first-grader, the ones that would be proudly displayed on the refrigerator door. This year Rachel will make her mom's favorite dessert, créme brulee.
Mother to thousands
Linda Florence, superintendent of the Reynolds School District, is responsible for more than 11,300 children every day, although she has a more modest two of her own. Her son Will is 36 and daughter Erin is 33.
But she does think of those 11,000 children as her kids.
"My career has been in education, 13 years as a teacher and 25 years in administration," she said. "I think of my students, whom I serve, as my kids. I want each and every child to reach his or her potential. They deserve it, just as my own."
These days, to celebrate Mother's Day, the family gathers and goes out to brunch or dinner and may squeeze in a round of golf in the afternoon. But her most treasured Mother's Day gifts are from her kids' kindergarten days.
"Both made me ceramic casts of their hand print. I love them because their hands are so small and their palm lines are clearly visible right down to the broken and uneven edges of their fingernails," she said.
Florence said becoming a mother profoundly changed her.
"A mother-child relationship is unconditional love. There is no greater bond," she said. "My husband cut the umbilical cords of our children in the delivery room as a symbolic gesture of separation of mom and child.
However, that cord often feels unsevered.
"When my kids were hurt with skinned knees, broken bones, or in life's disappointments or in celebration of accomplishments, I could feel their pain or happiness," she added. "The same is true today. A mother never outgrows that connection," she said.
That feeling is definitely shared by Lynn Snodgrass, CEO of the Gresham Area Chamber of Commerce and former speaker of the Oregon House of Representatives.
"Being a mom doesn't stop when the kids move out of the house," she said. "I occasionally tell my oldest daughter that I have never been the mom of a 41-year-old before, so cut me some slack, show me some grace."
Snodgrass calls motherhood "the greatest gift ever."
Her children — Jenne Glover, 41, and Megan Wood, 37 — are grown and have made Snodgrass a grandmother seven times. "Being a grandmother is a joy beyond explanation. When my first grandchild arrived, I actually felt like I physically grew another heart. And with the birth of each one of them, that heart got bigger and bigger."
Like Florence and the others, Snodgrass said motherhood made her a better business owner, politician and executive. Her work life benefited from "character-building traits like patience, love, flexibility, accountability and responsibility."
It gave her "broad shoulders, open arms and watchful eyes."
Queen for the day
The second Sunday in May is when moms all across East Multnomah County are treated like royalty. But Diane Noriega even got the crown.
The president of Gresham's Rotary was paging through photographs when she was reminded of a fond memory from Mother's Day 2011.
The picture shows Noriega's adult son, Christopher Saunders, along with Chris' daughter Pearl. Smack dab in the middle is "me, laughing my head off with the crown on," Noriega recalls.
Noriega still has the tiara stored away somewhere.
"Priceless — a treasured possession," she said.
But even though Mother's Day is supposed to be the one event all about her, it's impossible for Noriega to separate the celebration from thoughts of her son.
Though now happily hitched to her current hubby, Carlos, Noriega spent at least a decade as a single mom living in California. At the time, she was studying for her Ph.D. in education at the University of California, Santa Barbara. She would pick her son up from school, but only because she had won a prestigious Ford Fellowship, which allowed her to work part time.
"We'd go get a Coke and just talk," she said. "I'm really glad that I had that time. I had that luxury."
In those days, Chris and Diane would celebrate Mother's Day with a trip to a restaurant famous for its pancakes. They'd both order the French toast.
Today, Christopher and the Noriegas live within shouting distance in the Sandy area. They are getting ready for Mother's Day as well as their daughter's impending graduation from California College of the Arts. Pearl hopes to become an illustrator someday.
What about Noriega?
"I used to tell my son that I should be honored on Father's Day too," she replied. "Now, I get a text. My crown days are over."
—Story by Outlook reporters Chris Keizur, Teresa Carson and Zane Sparling