Emails from Hallmark, DSW, and every commercial enterprise that has my email address remind me again and again and again that Mothers Day is coming. I can buy, order, and send just about anything to Mom. This runs the gamut from traditional flowers and candy to a spa treatment, hiking shoes, breakfast, lunch or dinner out, or even a cruise or a car.
In-store product placement helps me choose by using eye-level placement with left to right scanning, block stacking (at least ten boxes of one product all stacked together to insure I’ll remember the name, shape, and color of the product).
Marketing surveys revealed that to attract a shopper with a cart and on a mission, there is a mere eight seconds to impress for that all-important purchase decision about how to best honor Mom.
All possibly helpful ideas if you’re stuck, rushed, or don’t have a clue what Mom really wants.
I don’t recall ever wondering what to get for my mother. This was not solely because I knew her so well. Gifts for my mother varied according to my age and what she let us know she wanted. Gift ideas were bounded by financial limits. Homemade cards were highly valued in my childhood. There was no cost and there were crayons, paper, scissors, wheat paste, ribbons and buttons in the cabinets under the bookcases. More than enough to create a card. We got positive feedback for detailed drawings, neat handwriting, and xoxoxo’s.
Once I was on my own, household items that I thought might make life easier made their appearance on Mothers’ Day, along with the homemade card. A blender, pillows, and yes, flowers and chocolate.
In the years when my mom was retired and broadening her creative side, I loved finding paints and art books to send her.
Finally, in her later years in the nursing home, I bought her clothes that were frilly, pretty, and feminine, along with stuffed animals that danced and sang.
One of the most wonderful gifts in her last decades of life was a gift of time. My mother began writing newsletters to our family members. She’d dictate, I’d write on my computer, with many digressions to tell the back story of why/how she got certain ideas. We’d address and stamp them and I’d mail them out. She also wrote stories about what was happening in her life.
After a visit with my husband and me and family in New Jersey in 1998, she wrote this story:
Lunch – A Feast or a Famine
by Gladys Erickson
There are all kinds of lunches or luncheons – feasts or famines.
The noon meal I eat alone at home after the morning chores, invariably termed a “lunch” is usually a rather uneventful occasion. That is, unless the phone rings, and I find myself, having just stuffed my mouth full of more than an ample supply of food, trying to hold a conversation.
A luncheon implies two or more people, a carefully planned menu, not a slopped-together peanut butter sandwich. If I’ve left my domicile for a peaceful lunch away from the turmoil that prevails at home, then this moment in time can be a relaxing and centering one.
When I lunch with a family member, good friend, or friends, we not only share physical refreshment but feel free to share our joys and burdens as well. This gives us the opportunity to be understanding, helpful and non-judgmental of each other. As one sage put it, to be thoughtful of others is “a time-honored way of extinguishing the ego’s self-importance.”
This is a time, too, to giggle, laugh, “be in the moment” and prayerfully wish the whole human race be filled with love for each other. The only thing that could mar a special time as this is allowing the conversation to degenerate into a gossip session. Then the opportunity to be physically, emotionally, and spiritually restored is forfeited.
The loneliest lunch in the world is after you’ve lost your dearest friend, live alone, and occasionally go to a restaurant- alone. I find myself enviously staring at families – toddlers, children, parents, grandparents eating together and enjoying themselves. The little ones sometimes have more food on their faces than in their mouths and there are a few moments of mayhem among the older children. So what? It’s all part of a precious time of the day.
Also within my view are tables where spouses and good friends are deep in conversation, and a table in a corner where lovers are more interested in each other than in the food before them.
Does the male species utilize this special hour of the day to bare their souls and talk about their innermost feelings? I don’t truly know. If they don’t, perhaps it’s really not important to them.
One of the nicest lunch occasions is the one when new friends are met and made. My daughter Ethel and her good friend Mary had been comparing their octogenarian mothers, and decided we should meet. So during my ’98 Thanksgiving visit to the “North,” arrangements were made for the four “girls” to have lunch at a nearby restaurant. The only knowledge we had beforehand about each other were: our first names, our ties to “Southern living” and the penchant that Mickey (Mary’s mother) and I had for wearing baseball caps in place of the conventional hats proper ladies don. There were hints from the girls that they probably had discussed our other quirks too.
The date of the luncheon arrived. We were to be the guests of our daughters. A loving gesture and a great idea! We arrived at this pleasant restaurant and I immediately knew that Mary with her broad smile and pretty red hair was a very special person in Ethel’s life. As for Mickey, there was no doubt that this smiling lady with twinkling eyes was my kind of “gal”- not some “pooped-out” oldster glued to her rocking chair. We spoke of shared activities and interests as well as our plans for the future. The conversation flowed easily. Pictures were taken at the table. The food was delicious! All in all, it was a very, very pleasant time. With the blend of young and old, I felt young again!
Well, it was time to say good-bye, and as we got up and put on our coats, I saw that Mickey put on her baseball cap. On the other hand, I was in the process of donning an ugly, but sensibly warm little woolen skullcap. It was then I noticed the look of dismay on Mickey’s face, and the disappointment in her voice when she learned I hadn’t even packed my cap! A terrible sinking feeling overcame me. Our daughters wanted pictures of their two mothers outside! Oh, the shame of it! Mickey’s expression of disappointment was only momentary. The pictures taken that day reveal two older ladies with smiles, respect for one another, and hearts full of love and gratitude for two loving daughters who made possible a day that was truly a feast. Also, I have a feeling if Mickey and I lived closer to each other, we might raise some eyebrows and be “too much” for our daughters.
The luncheon was our gift to our moms, but the lasting gift was her writing about it and sharing it. I realize a part of my Mother’s Day, and other days’ gifting, has been the time thinking about what to get my mother, how to deliver the gift to boost enjoyment, how to celebrate shared gifts as we did with writing newsletters, and modeling the frilly clothes. “Ah, the latest fashion for ladies of a certain age is modeled today by Ms. Erickson.” (Thunderous applause from the audience of two or three or four).
I’ve got the memories, photos, and stories to relive the gifts again and again and again.
Happy Mother’s Day!!
Ethel Lee-Miller blogs regularly about people, the power of words, and the writing life. She is the author of Thinking of Miller Place, and Seedlings, Stories of Relationships. She also enjoys sharing stories at Odyssey Storytelling, Tucson Tellers of Tales, and just about anywhere there’s a mic.