The Nature of Mother’s Day Gifts

Gifts I wrapped never looked this good–LOL!

This time of year, I recall standing in Herberger’s, a store that no longer exists, searching the clothes racks for something that would delight Mom. If I were on a roll, I’d buy several outfits and relieve my sister and one of my brothers of their anxious search (my other brother usually had his own plan). Not that Mom was so hard to delight, but more that we were striving so hard to convey a love that was too big to be contained by a gift.

My system was to try on the clothes in my size (several sizes larger than what Mom wore.) We had the same build, and if the clothes fit me, I’d buy them in her size and mail them (life before Amazon was a reflex). If they didn’t suit her, she could return them to Elder Beerman, the Ohio branch of Herberger’s.

I was curiously detached about the possibility of the clothes being returned. I’d tried my best and I knew that even if my gift didn’t work out, Mom saw the effort and recognized the love. She’d done the same anxious ritual for her mother and mother-in-law for years, too.

Mom has been gone nearly five years, a fact I still can hardly believe sometimes. When my sons ask me what gift I’d like, I often have no suggestions (none of us thinks purchasing clothes is realistic!) I suggest outings and time spent together, and that suits us. The real gift is that they care enough to ask, that they want to show their love.

Message received.


Labor of Love

Last September, my oldest son carried the last of his boxes to his car, hugged me goodbye and drove off to greet his future. He was moving across town, not across the country, but I was not fooled into thinking it was a minor move. He was launched and not likely to live with us again. I was proud, happy, and sad.

My husband, in a fit of cleaning and reorganizing our now-empty nest, brought a box of fabric down from the attic. Inside were remnants from the baby quilt I made our oldest along with the design I drew, and the calculations I made before cutting out the pieces. The pattern was simple: soft periwinkle blue and white cotton triangles joined to make rectangles with dark red grosgrain ribbon running diagonally along the seams where the triangles joined. The rectangles were set in a butter yellow border. I’d never made a quilt before and I didn’t know what I was doing—the top of the quilt turned out narrower than the bottom—but it didn’t matter. I did the best I could and learned as I went—like so much of mothering.

Three days before he was born, I was still stitching it. My back ached that dark winter morning, and every time I stood up and stretched over the dining room table to pin a piece, my water leaked a little but I didn’t recognize the signs of his impending arrival.Mike Quilt

Twenty-three years later, I’m well aware of the signs of his arrival at adulthood, and I see the symmetry in the beginning and ending of this phase of active motherhood.

Fabric scraps and design notes from our youngest son’s baby quilt were also in the box. He had recently returned to college, a less permanent departure. One side of his quilt has pink, blue, lavender and gold birds flying across a field of aqua. I was immediately drawn to the fabric I found in Victoria, British Columbia while I lumbered around seven months pregnant during our last family vacation before my youngest arrived. Greg Quilt

The other side of his quilt has a white center that’s bordered by strips of lavender and pink. I hand stitched the outlines of the imaginary birds and butterflies in colored threads against the white. I indulged in this artistic moment during a garage sale we held before moving to a house roomy enough for two boys—by then, I’d learned to enjoy the moments of grace that occasionally occur during the mundane—the essence of motherhood.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the Mommas out there.

A Ring, Not Such A Simple Thing

It occurred to me on my drive to work that this was going to be Jody’s 50th birthday. I hadn’t come up with an idea for a present but I was happy that I realized it was her 50th.  The significance of her birthday suddenly hit me. Her 50th birthday!

I was grateful that the significance of this milestone occurred to me, because often significance could hit me on the head and I still might not get it. I have a very good friend that knows this about me and she checks up on me around Jody’s birthday and our wedding anniversary.

I was pleased with myself. I had thought of the significance all by myself and I still had a few weeks to come up with a SIGNIFICANT present.

Jody’s birthday is around Mother’s day. Maybe that is where I got the idea that a bracelet or necklace with all of our birthstones would be nice.

Crystel, our nine-year-old daughter, was with me at Jared’s. Antonio, our other nine-year-old was across the parking lot at SchmItt’s for his drum lesson. Crystel and I only had a short amount of time to make a decision before Antonio’s lesson would be over. While I was looking at bracelets with the personal attendant, Crystel was examining rings. She called me over and pointed out a ring that she liked. I thought about it. The ring could have the number of stones we needed and Jody was more apt to wear the ring all of the time.

I changed course and had the gal price a ring for me with an emerald, ruby, and two sapphires. When it came time to decide the order of the stones I asked Crystel. She said the emerald, two sapphires, and then the ruby. I thought her order would be good. Jody being a sapphire would be next to each child depending on what sapphire the kids decided Jody was.

But … the next few days I puzzled over the order of the stones. I had an unsettling feeling. Jody was Emerald, not Sapphire. Antonio was Ruby. Crystel and I were Sapphire. Crystel’s order put Sapphire next to Emerald. Now on the face of things this is no big deal. But, symbolism is very important to nine-year-olds. The stones would be Jody, Crystel, Beth, Antonio. Antonio would be next to me if the first Sapphire was Crystel and not next to the birthday mama.

I checked online and the ring hadn’t yet shipped. I stopped into the jewelry store to check on the possibility of changing the order of the rings to sapphire, emerald, ruby, sapphire. This would put Jody next to each child.

This time Antonio was with me at Jared’s. He said that he thought the stones should match the order of the birthdays, emerald, ruby, sapphire, sapphire. I raised my eyebrows. The stones would be Antonio, Jody, Crystel, Beth. His order would place Ruby next to Emerald.

I was told that the ring had already shipped but that they could change the order of the stones for a price. I thought about it, and economically, this didn’t make sense. I told the gal that the order of the stones was perfect and explained to Antonio on the way out of the store how the ring was round, never-ending, inclusive, just like our family. I put my arm around him and said, “Each stone is important, a representation of us all.”

Jody’s birthday has since passed. Antonio thinks the ruby stone representing him is pretty, Crystel proudly announced that she chose the order of the stones, and I talked about the SIGNIFICANCE of the ring.