We carry a lot of baggage when it comes to Mother’s Day from both an historical perspective, and then our individual relationships with our mothers. All those feelings — good, bad and incredibly complex — come home to roost on that second Sunday in May, on that day when, in Maine, tulips bloom and the grass grows emerald green.

For most Mother’s Day implies a scramble for flowers into a vase; a long-distance call, perhaps; a brunch with a new scarf or necklace; or a card dropped in the mailbox on Friday morning, two days before Sunday. We’re thinking of Mom, but are we really thinking about what she might want?

According to an extensive history of Mother’s Day at the website Mother’sDayCentral, honoring motherhood has roots in antiquity. Well that makes sense, seeing as how humans rely partially on females for the propagation of the human race. Way back in time, we celebrated goddesses, such as Isis, the mother of the pharaohs; then it was the Greek goddess Rhea, with festivals taking place near the vernal equinox, and beginning of summer. The Catholic church became the mother church, and was decorated with jewels and flowers around Lent, and then the Church of England issued a decree in the 1600s to include Mothering Day, to honor all mothers, especially those in the working class.

But our particular Mother’s Day in the U.S. comes courtesy of Julia Ward Howe (she wrote the Battle Hymn of the Republic), who wrote a proclamation in 1870, following the Civil War, asking mothers to denounce the futility of sons killing sons of other mothers. She was hoping for an international day of peace and motherhood.

Arise, then, women of this day!

Arise all women who have hearts,
Whether your baptism be that of water or of tears
Say firmly:

“We will not have great questions decided by irrelevant agencies,
Our husbands shall not come to us reeking of carnage,
For caresses and applause.
Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn
All that we have been able to teach them of
charity, mercy and patience.

“We women of one country
Will be too tender of those of another country
To allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs.”

Needless to say, we still have war, and mothers still suffer.

Now we have a Mother’s Day that has been commercialized, not too terribly, but the expectations are that Mom needs a gift, or something, as an expression of our appreciation.

But here’s a little secret: Mothers need but one present on the second Sunday of May, and that is a heartfelt gift of love. No one but Mom knows the exquisite lift of spirits when a child — from 2 years old to a child in his or her late 50s, 60s, or however old — draws a simple flower, and writes, I love you, Mom.

That is the true essence of Mother’s Day. Tell her you love her. Pick a flower and put a ribbon around it. But deliver, honestly and authentically. It’s that simple.