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.
* Fun: Brunch and flowers may be fun for Mom, but if you've got little kids in the group, at some point you're going to have to deal with the fidget factor. That's where places like the Cloisters Children's Museum and the Baltimore Zoo come in handy.
At the Cloisters, director Beatrice Taylor and her daughter Kim will be reading stories aloud to young children. After story time, kids 3 and up are invited to make Mother's Day gifts in the crafts area. It's all included in the admission charge.
If your kids like animals, and what preschooler doesn't, more mother-daughter bonding is going on at the zoo, where a recent spate of births has turned the whole place into a veritable maternity ward.
In the barnyard, look for the baby goat triplets -- there are two sets of them -- born less than a month ago, and two little lambs that are only 2 months old.
The zoo's newest additions are in the main valley, where, if you look closely, you can see about a dozen baby prairie dogs scooting about with their parents. Born about two weeks ago, they are less than 3 inches long. If those little rodents don't bring out the maternal instincts in Mom, nothing will.
* Family: If your Mother's Day outing will include more than one mother, consider an idea that will appeal to several generations. The Baltimore Streetcar Museum on Falls Road is offering moms of all ages rides for only 50 cents tomorrow. Grandma will enjoy telling the kids how she used to ride the streetcar downtown.
Similarly, the B&O; Railroad museums -- both the historic Pratt Street site and the Ellicott City station -- are open tomorrow. In Ellicott City, moms accompanied by a child will receive a free potted plant. For mothers of older children, a day of shopping at the mall may be as good a Mother's Day gift as any. Or if you prefer something a little more sophisticated, how about lunch and an exhibit? Both the Baltimore Museum of Art and the Walters Art Gallery are open tomorrow.
Mother's Day events
Several organizations are planning Mother's Day events or bTC offering special rates to mothers tomorrow. Here is a sampling in the metropolitan area:
* Clifton Park. Mother's Day Garden Dedication begins at 1 p.m. in the park at Harford Road and Erdman Avenue. Music, refreshments. Bring a potted plant for planting. Call (410) 396-9177.
* Cloisters Children's Museum. Director Beatrice Taylor and daughter Kim, 11, will read two stories in a read-aloud session. Kids 3 and older can make refrigerator-magnet gifts out of materials provided. Noon to 4 p.m. Admission: $4 for adults and kids age 2 and up; $3 for seniors. Call (410) 823-2551.
* Baltimore Streetcar Museum. All moms accompanied by a child may ride for 50 cents. Dads and other adults, $2; kids 4-11, $1; kids under 4 free. Noon-5 p.m. 1901 Falls Road. Call (410) 547-0264.
* Baltimore Zoo. Visit several moms and their new babies at home in the barnyard and main valley: goat triplets, lambs, prairie dogs, chicks and bunnies. Open 10 a.m. to 4:20 p.m. Admission: adults, $6.50; seniors and kids, $3.50; kids under 2 free. Call (410) 366-5466.
* Savage Mill. Mother's Day brunch and fashion show at the mill in Howard County. Vintage fashions, custom knitted sweaters, hand-woven fashions, custom millinery and fashions for the home. Fashion show at 1 p.m. is free. Brunch, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., is $14.95. 9600 Foundry St., Savage. Call (410) 792-2820.
* Walters Art Gallery. Pianist Lori Kaufman performs J. S. Bach, Brahms and Handel in 1:30 p.m. concert. Current exhibit: "Masterworks of American Impressionism From the Pfeil Collection." Mothers accompanied by their children of any age admitted free. Regular admission: $4. Open 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Call (410) 547-9000.
* Ellicott City B&O; Railroad Station Museum. Site of the first railroad terminus in the United States. Mothers accompanied by a child will receive a free flowering plant. Open 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Main Street and Maryland Avenue. Call (410) 461-1944.
* Oakland. Old-fashioned Mother's Day picnic on the historic grounds. Sack races, horseshoes, croquet, family caricatures drawn, musical and magic entertainment. Bring a blanket and picnic lunch, stroll the gardens. Free lemonade, door prizes and a gift for every mom. Admission: $4; $9 including lunch; children under 2 free. 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. 5430 Vantage Point Road, Columbia. Call (410) 730-4801 for reservations.