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Grazing: Symbolism and nostalgia on Mother's Day

Mother's Day is coming up and no other holiday so thoroughly captures the primary emotional state of the nation these days. I'm talking about nostalgia – that sentimental longing for the idealized past. In a ruined economy, we grow especially nostalgic for the comfort – actual or not – symbolized by a mother.

But the dearth of sentimentality about the mother, like most nostalgia, feels surreally one-dimensional to me. It at once places the mother on a pedestal and trivializes her actual reality. At least this seems true to me of many Southern mothers.

My mother, who died a few years ago, was born in Silver, S.C., a crossroads south of Sumter in the middle of nowhere. Her father was German and her mother was very Southern. They moved to a big house in downtown Charlotte after the Depression ruined my grandfather's prosperous business as a cotton broker. He opened a furniture store where my mother, the youngest of a gaggle of daughters, kept him company.

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