“It’s your special day, Mom. We got you a lube job!”

The other day a fat envelope of coupons arrived—seemingly from the distant past. Some of the contents reminded me that when I think of Mother’s Day gifts, flowers and chocolates come to mind. So does a nice dinner or maybe a small piece of jewelry.

A radiator flush? Never.

Anna Jarvis, daughter of
Julia Ward Howe.

In 1872 Julia Ward Howe called for women to join together in support of disarmament and asked for June 2, 1872, to be established as a “Mother’s Day for Peace.” Howe’s appeal to “womanhood throughout the world” is often referred to as the Mother’s Day Proclamation. But Howe’s day was not for honoring mothers. It was for organizing pacifist mothers against war.

In its current form, Mother’s Day was established by Anna Jarvis with the help of Philadelphia merchant John Wanamaker following the death of her mother in 1905. In 1912 Jarvis trademarked the phrases “Second Sunday in May” and “Mother’s Day” and created the Mother’s Day International Association. Spearheaded by the greeting card and floral industries commercialization of Mother’s Day began. Today, Americans spend more than $3 billion on flowers, $2 billion on pampering gifts—like spa treatments—and another $70 million on greeting cards.

And every industry wants a piece of the pie. To wit:

This offer cannot be combined with any other offer or used in addition to fleet discounts. Offers for oil changes are good for up to 5 quarts of motor oil. Must present coupon at time of service.

Two questions.

Didn’t Valpak go out of business 20 years ago? And for our mothers, could there be a more sentimental gift than a tire rotation?