How can one celebrate Mother’s Day? Perhaps it starts with a sudden notification from the phone’s Calendar. One awakes one early morning, rushing to work, and in between the commute, seeing that May 12th is Mother’s Day. The promotions come in. The planning phase starts with what gifts to buy, where to have a fantastic dinner with one’s mother, or perhaps a short vacation to a tropical island.
Then one realizes, the planning phase cannot move on to the implementation phase without a simple phone call. How long has it been since your last call to your mother? Or was it her who call you instead? It’s strange how one simple phone call stands there on your plan. It stares at you, questioning the validity of your love.
And you fumble with the touchscreen device, wondering, What should I say? What should the conversation be about?
As simple as the phone call is, the conversation can start with the stories of all mothers. From The-My, Pham’s “Bông Hồng Cài Áo” (T/N: “A Rose for Your Pocket”) to Tupac’s “Dear Mama,” this blog post will walk you through the stories of the love that transcends cultures from the beginning of time. As with all stories, they started with the gentle woman’s voice by your bedside in your childhood. Once there was a mother.
“A Rose for Your Pocket,” the Japanese Mother’s Day Practice
[L]ook at her for a long time, look at her deeply. Do this in order to see her, to realise that she is there, she is alive, beside you. Take her hand and ask her one short question to capture her attention, “Mother, do you know something?” She will be a little surprised and will probably smile when she asks you, “What, dear?” Keep looking into her eyes, smiling serenely, and say, “Do you know that I love you?” Ask this question without waiting for an answer.A Rose for Your Pocket, Thich Nhat Hanh (1962)
“Bông Hồng Cài Áo,” or “A Rose for Your Pocket,” is a beautifully poignant tradition in Japan. The tradition says that on Mother’s Day, a person whose mother is still alive will have a pink flower on his pocket. In contrast, the one who has lost his mother will bear a mourning white flower.
The simple flowers, only differentiated by their colors, are the unbearable thin lines guarding the immeasurable happiness. It is the happiness of having a tireless and inexhaustible source of tender love.
And in the night, as you lay there crying, the love says, Just turn around, I will always be there.
I do not know if the meticulous Japanese people still practice this pocket-flower tradition, like any other traditions they strive to keep. But before the tradition loses itself in modern human progress, the delicacy of the practice has inspired a song in time to save its eternal beauty.
And “Bông Hồng Cài Áo,” a Eulogy from an Old-Age Orphan
If a gift such as the presence of your own mother doesn’t satisfy you, even if you are president of a large corporation or king of the universe, you probably will not be satisfied. I know that the Creator is not happy, for the Creator arises spontaneously and does not have the good fortune to have a mother.A Rose for Your Pocket, Thich Nhat Hanh (1962)
Composed by The-My, Pham in 1966 during a time of political instability, “Bông Hồng Cài Áo” single-handedly became the monumental song to praise the happiness of having a mother.
Inspired by Thich Nhat Hanh’s eulogy, the song uses the same simple, yet emotionally provoking words. They successfully reflect the beautifully poignant pain of an orphan who has lost his mother. He hands out pink flowers to anyone whose mother is still alive.
And amidst the crowded paradise of pink flower, the lonely white mourning flower on his pocket stands out like a throbbing reminder. Please be happy, it says, because the pink flower is on your pocket. Because you still have an ocean of love by your side.
Of course, you can choose to treasure that ocean. And as with all oceans, you can also choose to litter that ocean with non-dissolvable trash.
But every choice comes with its own suffering. The more trash you put into that ocean, the sooner it will dry up. Before you can save it, the ocean is gone. It leaves you alone with a festering wound, bandaged by the same kind of trash.
Then one evening, you come home
And look at your mother lovingly, tenderly
You says, “Mom, do you know it?”
“What, dear?,” your mother says.
“That I love you. I love you so much.”“A Rose for Your Pocket,” The-My, Pham (1966)
Perhaps there is nothing that is more natural, more easy, and more obvious than loving a mother. Like the song heralds, you just come home one evening, look at your mother, and tell her how much you love her.
As simple as a pink flower on your pocket, loving a mother does not need much more than that declaration.
*You can find the English translation for the song here.
“Dear Mama”: A Song for the Unsung Heroines
On the other side of the world, sitting in a studio in the heart of the Harlem neighborhood, Tupac Shakur penned his love declaration for his mama. Bearing higher popularity to the English-speaking world, it was a love declaration that can top the Billboard chart for five weeks straight.
Despite the difference in the language and the cultural ideologies, Tupac’s “Dear Mama” has become a pink flower that he put on his pocket. Above the lyrical genius, Tupac has an immense yearning to compose an anthem for the unsung heroines of black children’s life.
Thus, his pocket rose – his love declaration – bears the pride of the hard-earned love and the unconditional sacrifice of mothers.
The mothers whose life is lost to the faults and mistakes they made. Yet, their inner bravery turns them to heroines, who swallow the bitter aftertaste and live on.
Their pain and suffering drizzle on the breakfast pancakes, which they wake up at 5 a.m. daily to make. The sweetness is all you can taste, but somewhere on the tip of your tongue, a choking saltiness lingers:
Keep A Rose for Your Pocket on Mother’s Day
From Thich Nhat Hanh’s eulogy, The-My, Pham’s song, to Tupac’s Platinum track “Dear Mama,” there is one universal truth.
As long as the rose is still on your pocket – as long as the pink color still fills your life with a simple blessing – you should be content and happy. Because no matter what cruise you are sailing, what storms and waves are ahead, you are safe in your mother’s ocean of love.
And as with every other universal truth, you should accept this simple gesture of having a rose on your pocket on this Mother’s Day – this declaration of love and ultimate happiness – unconditionally.