The great comedian Lily Tomlin got a lot of laughs with the words, “One ringy dingy... two ringy dingy.” And with such gems as, “have I reached the party to whom I am speaking?” Countless people laughed at her character Ernestine, the telephone operator (myself included).
Ernestine was just a cog in a big wheel known as the Bell Telephone Company (later AT&T) and her acerbic wit reflected how many people felt about such a large monopoly as Ma Bell. Even the colloquial name of Ma Bell was hardly affectionate, but spoke to the company’s great intrusion into American and Canadian homes. We all laughed as Ernestine said, “We're the phone company. We don't care; we don't have to.”
Ma Bell is probably not the first or only time that motherhood is used in negative sense. Usually, motherhood is used positively and with reverence and respect. As it should be. Like Mothering Sunday, which is next Sunday (March 26) the forth Sunday of Lent (smack dab in the middle of Lent, kind of).
Some parishes do rather elaborate celebrations on Mothering Sunday with parties and cake, and some even elect a mother of the day. Originally, Mothering Sunday was a time to remember and pray for Mother Church. Often, if it was possible, people cancelled their own worship service to attend worship in the Mother Church, the Cathedral. Eventually, it because a time for people to return home, to attend their home Church, and to visit their mothers. This is widely believed to be the forerunner of today’s Mother’s Day. My mother, who grew up with Mothering Sunday and not Mother’s Day would expect (prefer) a card or call from me on Mothering Sunday. To be safe, I call her both days.
It is important to keep, as best as we can, our Lenten discipline, but let that include opportunities for parties and celebrations. And if that means celebrating our mothers, or Mother Church, then so be it.
One more Lily Tomlin-ism, “Forgiveness means giving up all hope for a better past.”