A couple of days ago, Ava and I went searching for a Mother’s Day gift to send to my mom.
It happens every year: I spend a month trying to figure out the most perfect and thoughtful gift to illustrate how much I love and appreciate her, and then with two days to spare, I scramble. Last year, I found myself standing in the beauty section of Marshalls holding a can of Big Sexy Hair volumizing spray. Because nothing says “I love you” like voluminous hair.
No. Really. I bought my mom hairspray for Mother’s Day. And you know what’s even better? She liked it.
My mom is the most appreciative and sentimental person on the planet. At Christmas she says, “Don’t buy me anything; you being here is my gift.” And she means it. She must’ve asked me a hundred times over the past 12 months, “Where did you find that fabulous hairspray again? I just love it!” Her low maintenance makes my life easy, which is probably why I continue to fail at gift giving. Yesterday, Ava and I again ended up at Marshalls, looking for something practical to fit the “it’s-the-thought-that-counts” bill. Something Mom really needs but doesn’t necessarily want like, (spoiler alert!) beach towels and flip-flops.
My mom has used the same beach towel for 28 years. I know because it’s the towel I took naps on back in kindergarten. It’s covered with cats and has my initial embroidered in the corner. At 3-feet long, it’s more hand towel than beach towel, but Mom would never complain. Likewise, she bought her flip-flops back when Hammer Pants were in style. Today they look like stale pieces of fruit leather held together with twine. “They do the trick,” she famously says to all things well past their prime.
As I stuff the towels, flip-flops and a dress that needs tailoring into a box that will inevitably arrive on Mom’s doorstep two days late, I feel bad about myself. I’m a Mother’s Day failure. Sort of.
You see, there is nothing I can give my mom that will ever match what she’s given me. She has loved me unconditionally, even when I made the terms of our relationship nearly unbearable, (the most memorable being my two-year stint parading as Teen Satan). She has encouraged me to find my way in life, even when the path has led me 3,000 miles away from home. And she has acted as if every accomplishment I’ve ever had were worthy of publishing in the local paper (I literally have to stop her). Sure, Mom has done some goofy things, like pouring powdered laundry detergent into my dryer, or referring to my husband of 11 years as “Hawaiian” (he’s not), and upon meeting my professor say, “Andrea was right, you are cute!” But in all of my 33 years she has never hurt, disappointed or humiliated me. Not once.
I wish this were the case for everyone. I wish every mom were cut out for parenting, but I know better. I’ve seen mothers hit their children, publicly humiliate them, and say things that I wouldn’t whisper to myself in an empty room. Having a child doesn’t automatically make you mom material. That takes work, patience and an unimaginable degree of selflessness. My mom made it look easy, even when I made it hard on her.
My mom has given me everything: security, happiness, confidence, strength and humility. Oh, and little thing called life. And while useful, a couple of towels and a pair of flip-flops cannot adequately thank her for her gift. Perhaps these words will come a little closer.