MANCHESTER -- The ancient Romans observed it. So did the ancient Greeks. Both had festivals that honored motherhood. Intriguingly, the Romans termed theirs "Hilaria," to honor the mother of the gods. From it, we derive our modern term for laughter and rejoicing -- "hilarious."
Mother's Day began as an informal holiday in the latter stages of the 19th century, but it didn't become officially recognized until a century ago -- in 1914, when the second Sunday in May was set aside for the event. The practice quickly spread across the globe, although some nations hold their observance at other times of the year.
That connection between goofy fun and the serious business of motherhood could keep an etymologist, someone who studies the origins of words, busy for a while. Many would argue that while motherhood is filled with joyous moments, motherhood is no joke either.
Driving to the games. Cleaning the house. Working. Being there. Appreciation that may be somewhat inconsistent at best. The list goes on.
But it's also a different day this year for Jodie Hudson, a school teacher from Bennington. On March 28, she and her husband welcomed their first child, Lauren Katherine Hudson, into their family. Mother's Day took on a whole new meaning for her, she said.
"It's definitely a special Mother's Day this year," she said. "I'm fortunate to have months with her; most only have a few weeks. I couldn't even imagine that at this point."
Hudsn will return to her teaching post at Bennington Elementary School in the fall.
No matter that getting two or three hours of sleep at a given stretch seems like a luxury. So far, barely a month into being a first-time parent, she's found the energy to keep going, even after being up more than a portion of the night most nights.
Just to have the ability to keep going after little to no sleep has been one observation. Another is the all-encompassing nature of being a mom for a newborn, she said.
"To get nothing accomplished all day, but feeding and caring for her, was also very surprising," she said. "I thought I'd be out planting flowers, but that has not been the case."
So far, what she hasn't missed is work. Having recently completed a master's degree and focused on her career, with several years of classroom experience teaching behind her, Hudson said, somewhat to her surprise, she hasn't missed the work-day routine very much at all.
"I was thinking I wouldn't find it fulfilling to be home with her and I would miss the daily grind, but I haven't one bit," she said.
It will also be a special Mother's Day for Melissa Levis of Manchester. It will be the first one without her own mother to have around to talk and be with, other than in a spiritual sense.
Her mother, Georgette, an innkeeper, passed away earlier this year from cancer.
However, Melissa will not mark the day with unbearable sorrow and depression. She and her family -- her father, sister and brothers, along with the kids -- are planning a weekend-long series of events at the Wilburton Inn, on River Road, which has been in the family for more than a quarter-century.
"Our mother, Georgette Wasserstein Levis' favorite things were dancing, enjoying fine food and seeing families having fun together at the Wilburton Inn. We want to honor her by welcoming the community to share in these creative, joyful and delicious events," she said in a news release.
Her father, Albert Levis, will lead tours of their extensive sculpture garden, with a focus on the transformation of women and goddesses in several ancient cultures. A special "Farm Fresh" Mother's Day brunch will be held Sunday morning. Saturday night will see a throw-back disco night, DJ'd by one of her sons and four granchildren. "You should be dancing, yeah," as the Bee Gees once sang.
Melissa Levis, who had been living and working in New York City as a singer and songwriter for off-Broadway musicals, had already decided on a return to Vermont and to help with the running of the inn when the family learned of her mother's illness. That was a blessing, she said; it made it clear her commitment to that was not out of a sense of guilt.
She was amazed by the number of people, who kept returning to stay at The Wilburton year after year, who have said her mother's upbeat and welcoming personality kept them coming back. That's a legacy Melissa and her siblings, along with her father, plan to maintain and build on, she said.
"There was just no question that we would have this celebration," she said. "We're doing this special event because Mom would want us to keep dancing."
Mother's Day is Sunday, May 11. Don't forget.
Mother's Day events
Saturday, May 10
Northshire Bookstore: Read aloud and a Mother's Day crafting event, 2 p.m., in the Northshire Bookstore. (802) 362-2200 or 1-800-437-3700 or www.northshire.com.
Ventfort Hall: Mother's Day Pink Tea and Ballet with by the American Dance Institute Ensemble of Pittsfield and the Albany Berkshire Junior Ballet Company and the Cantarella School of Dance, 3:30 p.m. Lenox.
Sunday, May 11
Hoffman Bird Club: Post Farm and Woods Pond. Morning walk in search of spring migrants and rails. Meet at the Price Chopper parking lot on the Pittsfield-Lenox Road, Lenox. Leader Gael, (413) 281-1017.
Norman Rockwell Museum: Celebrate Mother's Day with free admission for mothers (members always free), and gallery talks about family themes in the work on display. 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Stockbridge.
Monday, May 12
Florida Senior Center: Special Mother's Day program, "Hats Off To Seniors," with folksinger and storyteller Tim Van Egmond, 12:30 p.m. To reserve a seat, call Donna at (413) 662-2811.
Saturday, May 17
Berkshire Festival of Women Writers: A Mother's Day Celebration in Words and Music, sponsored by the Berkshire Festival of Women Writers. Sandisfield Arts Center, 5 Hammertown Road, Sandisfield. Tickets: (413) 258-4100 or visit sandisfieldartscenter.org.