The Mother’s Day Project

War is Personal

Archive for Mother’s Day

Because We Are All Daughters & Sons

The Mother’s Day Project is not – as the name would suggest – a cross-stitch sampler of aprons and biscuits and babies and other sentimental iconography associated with mothers and motherhood.  Truth is, The Mother’s Day Project is only marginally about mothers.


So, why the name?  Mostly, it evolved in the context of several on-going discussions and experiences from my own life, thinking about my years as a single-parent, blogging about the very real lack of support (both governmental and cultural) for working parents and their families, along with a healthy mix of stream-of-consciousness meandering of the sort that can only occur when one has time, quiet, sunlight and is just exhausted enough to allow the brain to meander and construct run-on sentences like this one.


It’s nice to discover that Julia Ward Howe envisioned the original Mother’s Day as a Peace Movement following her experiences during the American Civil War.  That fact certainly lends credibility to the name.  As human beings, the work of bringing peace to our personal relationships, our communities, our country and our world may be the most noble and necessary endeavor of our lifetime.  I am all in favor of returning Mother’s Day to its original purpose and I hope this small, grassroots project will advance a return to the genesis of the day.


The larger purpose of The Mother’s Day Project is to draw attention to the human cost of the Iraq War.  While the parameters of the Project focus on women who have lost their lives serving as part of the Coalition forces in Iraq, it is not meant to exclude recognition for others who have lost their lives due to this war.  Male soldiers, men, boys, girls, infants and Iraqi women have died in the thousands.  They are all worthy and deserving of our attention.  They were all part of the universal “us.”


This war, more than any other in my lifetime, has been removed from the collective psyche of our day-to-day lives. What we see, what we know and subsequently, what we feel is tightly controlled.  No flag-draped coffins.  Reporters are “embedded.”  Most days, the daily death toll from Iraq is buried in a sidebar of my local newspaper several pages inside.  And, when we do stop to think about the deaths we read about, we know they are only part of the story.  The real numbers coming out of Iraq reveal a level of violence and destruction that is, for most of us, too daunting, too numbing to comprehend.


The Mother’s Day Project, in making the losses of war personal, changes forever the sense of disengagement that the Bush Administration wishes us to feel.  Yeah, we can spend a couple of hours shopping at the mall as this administration wishes us to do, or, we can take an hour or two to forge a personal connection with someone who died in Iraq and, in doing so, never be able to look at those war statistics in the same detached way again.


That’s not a protest of the Iraq War.  It’s the birth of a revolution. 


How Did MDP Begin?

Ravensbruck concentration camp memorial

A few years back, I visited four concentration camps in Poland and Germany in the course of a single week. I don’t recommend this sort of punishing travel experience for just anyone, but I did it for a good reason and I’m glad that I did. (If you’re ever feeling particularly angst-ridden and depressed and want to hear more about my experiences at each camp, buy me a glass of wine and I’ll pour it all out for you – the details and my impressions, that is, not the wine.)

There was one camp, though, that haunts me still and at regular intervals. Ravensbruck. It was a camp for women and children, like women and children don’t already suffer enough during times of war. Hell, even in times of peace. And, here’s what moved me the most – a simple display of the camp’s survivors who, in their ordinariness, revealed more devastatingly than any tribute or memorial could about the extent of what was lost to so many others. Women as mothers, wives, friends, grandmothers. Women in their gardens. Women smiling at the camera, waving on a summer day. Extraordinary women doing ordinary things, in ordinary ways, remarkable because they – unlike so many others – walked out of Ravensbruck alive.

As another Mother’s Day nears, I started wondering how many women soldiers have lost their lives in Iraq? How many mothers, wives, lovers? How many women who would have been mothers, wives, lovers, friends?

As of today, the answer to how many female soldiers have died in Iraq since the beginning of the war is 79. I know their names.

Here is my idea for The Mother’s Day Project. You know the sort of fiber-arts work I’ve been doing lately. I would like to make a tote bag and incorporate the names of these soldiers. I want to hand-stitch the names on muslin fabric, but I’d like to have many different hands contributing to the stitching. I need volunteers.

I don’t care one whit how accomplished you are with a needle. Anything goes as long as the name is readable. I will provide the names (pre-stamped so you simply outline the letters with stitching) and the fabric and, if you need help with the return postage, I’ll even take care of that detail. Once I have all the stitched names, I’ll assemble the tote.

Why a tote? Because I want something utilitarian. Something that will go out into the world every day as a reminder of this horrible loss, made more horrible as people recognize that these names represent only a very small portion of the human toll this war has taken. And, for every volunteer who contributes a stitched name, I will send the tote to you. Put it to use. Take it to the market, keep it in your mini-van as you drive your kids to school. Stuff it with your knitting. A week. Two. Whatever seems right to you.

All I ask in return is that you keep sending the tote on, and that you record your feelings and experiences with the project on your blog (if you have one) or in a letter.

Obviously, this project will not be completed by Mother’s Day, 2007. That’s OK. If you would like to participate, send your contact information to mothersdayproject (at) sbcglobal (dot) net.