If you drive through the little town of Grafton, in north-central West Virginia, you'll find the church where, for 20 years, Anna Maria Reeves Jarvis taught classes, fought for improved sanitation and worked to unite former adversaries in the Civil War before her death in 1905. Her daughter, Anna Marie Jarvis, commemorated her mother's life two years later with a ceremony in the church that celebrated mothers everywhere.
The church is now the International Mother's Day Shrine, and that ceremony on May 10, 1907, gave birth, so to speak, to the first "official" Mother's Day, a commemoration that begat a national movement to recognize a day to honor mothers, living and dead, as a holiday. It took several more years, but in 1914, President Woodrow Wilson finally got tired of the nagging — just kidding, mothers don't nag — and signed the resolution that was introduced by co-sponsor Sen. Morris Sheppard of Texas.
Nearly a century later, Mother's Day has managed to keep its dignity as an occasion for gift giving thanks largely to our sentimental streak for Mom. Breakfast in bed, gooey poetic cards and handcrafted presents ensure that mothers know that the day is theirs.
That said, the Modern Mom relies on technology to get her through the day, and to that end, we've come up with a few things she might not know she even wants. Such as:
It's one of those "why didn't I think of that?" inventions. The VoiceQuilt is an heirloom-quality keepsake box that looks like any other jewelry box — except this one holds up to 4 1/2 hours of recorded personalized messages and music for mom. Family members recite favorite stories, tributes and greetings online and via a toll-free phone number; the recordings are edited and then the finished box is shipped to the unsuspecting mother who is about to cry a river listening to the voices. $55 and up, with an option to have family members pay for their own contribution (brilliant!); see www.voicequilt.com.
Hard to believe, but there are some mothers who don't like to open the hood of the car to see what's wrong with the engine. For them, there is CarMD, another one of those forehead-slapping inventions that you should have thought of yourself. You plug in the hand-held CarMD device into your 1996-and-up vehicle's on-board diagnostic port (they even show you where your port is on your car); download the data, then upload it into your computer. The tester uses a database compiled from thousands of certified technicians to figure out why that "check engine" light came on, among other automotive ailments — and then tells you how bad it is and how much it should cost to fix. $98.99; see www.carmd.com.
Samsung Netbook N150
When's the last time someone saw your laptop and said, "Ooooh, pretty"? The 2.7 pound N150 is a stripped- down computer that does the basics — Internet, e-mail, photos, music — but in fetching, vibrant colors including Bermuda blue, flamingo pink and Caribbean yellow. The 10.1-inch screen with built-in webcam is accompanied by a battery that can last up to seven hours, a 3-in-1 memory card reader and three handy USB ports for adding peripherals as needed. $359.99; see www.samsung.com and click on the netbook for a list of online retailers (the link will take you directly to those websites, which included, at press time, amazon.com and bestbuy.com).
Tech4o Accelerator Sports Watch
Modern moms keep a pedometer on their hips to make sure they get in their daily minimum number of steps. But pedometers are rarely attractive, seeing as they hang on a belt and ruin whatever look Mom is going for. This watch has a step counter with a seven-day/10-week memory and a daily step counter schedule; it also has an alarm, dual time zones, a stopwatch and a countdown counter. But wait, that's not all: It also measures speed, distance, calories burned and workout durations. And it keeps time. $69.99; see www.tech4o.com and click on "performance products." You can buy the watch online or get a list of area retailers.
No doubt about it, moms like their iPods. But they may not like their earbuds. For her, there's Able Planet's Plaid line of over-the-head foldable headphones, which offer a rich audio experience but, you know, in plaid. Do you need to know about the award-winning LINX Audio Technology, the noise-canceling component or the interchangeable ear cups for customized fit? No, all you need to know is they come in pink, red, white and green. $99.99; $5 goes to the Susan G. Komen for the Cure foundation; expected to be available at Walmart, Costco, Sam's Club, Target, Fry's, select Best Buys, and www.amazon.com May 1.
Create camera by Jason Wu
The 27-year-old fashion designer to the stars (Michelle Obama, Drew Barrymore, Natalie Portman and others) has come up with a digital camera that brings elegance to a field that is either too cheap looking or too cumbersome. The General Imaging Create eliminates thumbing through menus thanks to one-touch operations and boasts 12 megapixels of resolution, a 3X Optical Zoom and a 2.7-inch LCD screen, plenty for making stellar photos of the family in portraits or at play. Best of all, it comes in 10 leather and metallic colors with a fabric wrist strap and microfiber camera pouch and a sleek camera body design; the deluxe model includes a creamy leather camera case in three colors; the deluxe-deluxe set has all that, plus eight gigs of internal memory and leather neck straps. $179.99 to $229.99; available at www.general-imaging.com/store. Also expected in Sears and Ritz Camera stores this month.
Kodak Pulse Digital Frame
Does your mother really have time or perhaps the technological wherewithal to transfer her digital photos from the camera to that spiffy digital frame that plays the pics in a continuous slide show? Perhaps not. This touch-screen frame is different — it has its own e-mail address! You send your photos — yes, you, not your mom, she's got enough to do — directly to the frame the way you would to a family member across the country. You can e-mail them from your phone as soon as you take the snap, you can link to Facebook and Internet gallery sites, or you can upload images from a memory card (or two, there are two slots) or a camera (the old-fashioned way, with a USB cable). And there's no software to wrestle with. $129.95; buy directly from www.kodak.com or see the frame there and then click to links to online retailers, which included, at press time, amazon.com, jr.com and sears.com.