Every year on the second Sunday of May, millions of American mothers joyfully accept whatever token of love their children give them. Usually that token is much the same as it was last year and the year before that. This Mother's Day, 20 million long-distance phone calls are expected to be made, 125 million greeting cards given, uncounted numbers of flowers cut and goodness-knows-how-many tons of candy presented. Tradition is a powerful force.
Seldom, however, does anyone ask mom what she would really like. We did, and here is what some of them said:
Brenda Roberts, Los Angeles, mother of two daughters, 5 and 2:
"Their dad would have to help them with this, but what I'd love to have is a taped diary in my children's voices. Their little voices change so much, so fast. He could capture a time period on the tape recorder. Every few days he could record them telling a story, singing a song, telling something that happened to them. Or they could just talk to each other. Then the three of them could give me the tape on Mother's Day and I would keep it forever."
Doris Feinstein, Los Angeles, teacher and wife of a rabbi, mother of four daughters, 22, 16, 11 and 8, and a son, 20:
"In our religion, Mother's Day is every day. I would rather have the respect and honor of my children than the most expensive gift. When they do give me something, I like homemade best. My favorite Mother's Day was when they served me breakfast in bed. My Esther made a menu and told me to check off what I wanted. Then they brought my toast and omelet on a tray with a flower. They propped up my pillow and tabulated how many vitamins they thought I should have. That year I even had singing waitresses!"
Billie Heller, Beverly Hills, community activist and women's rights advocate, mother of two sons, 30 and 26, and a daughter, 28:
"My children already know that I want them to be physically there. For example, all three of them came to the March for Women's Lives sponsored by the National Organization for Women last March 16. They have reassured me that they understand the issues that I have devoted my life to, that they don't resent the time I spent going to meetings, that they haven't felt neglected. On Mother's Day I, am going to reassure them that I am always there, ready to support their interests."
Martina Lozano, East Los Angeles, child-care worker at the House of Ruth women's shelter and mother of two daughters, 11 and 7:
"My children are too young to give me what I really want, which is to see my mother. She lives in Mendota, near Fresno, and I haven't seen her for two years. My wish for Mother's Day would be to spend the day with her and my daughters. I would show her around Hollywood. I would show her the stars on the sidewalks. Then I would buy her a steak in a nice restaurant. Before, when I was a kid and my family would take her out, it would be for pizza or hamburgers. I always promised her that someday I would buy her a steak."
Mollyanne George, Encino, antiquarian book dealer, specializing in rare science and medical books, and mother of a daughter, 19, and a son, 18:
"For my kids, 'mother' equals food. My daughter telephones me from college a week before she comes home and asks me to make stuffed cabbage and all her other favorites. When I think of food, I think of hungry people, so for Mother's Day this year, I asked my kids to buy us places in the Hunger Project's Hands Across America on May 25. I thought it would be a fun thing to do as a family. And that's what they did; they called in and pledged. What I'd really like is to reserve a place on the Brooklyn Bridge. Couldn't you just see us, stretching out across the bridge? It would beat the heck out of the Mojave Desert, which is probably where we will be."
Mary Ann Scheff, Los Angeles, television screenwriter and mother of two sons, 6 months and 3:
"This is so mundane, but it is my honest desire: I want a solid night's sleep. I have this fantasy about going away, far away, like to the Oaks spa in Ojai, while my husband takes care of the children. I would sleep and no one would bother me for two days."
Chris Dian, Los Angeles, office manager and mother of an adopted son, 5 months:
"I don't want anything. I waited a long time, but now I have everything I want. For the 17 years I have been married, I have gone to church on the Sunday that is Mother's Day, and I have looked around at the mothers wearing corsages. The pastor always acknowledges the mothers in some way, asking them to stand up or raise their hands. That was always a poignant moment for me. I felt so left out. The last few years I hardened myself; I refused to feel anything. But this year I will raise my hand. I will smile and smile."
Carol Booth, Laguna Beach, weaver and ceramist, mother of a daughter, 20, and a son, 16: