For a while.
I guess I was around six the first time Daddy gave us money to get our own Mother’s Day gifts for Mama. Maybe he thought we were ready to make our own decisions, but probably it was revenge for the bottle of “Devil’s Brew” cologne Mama had allowed us to choose for him at Christmas. It came inside a box decorated with acid green and yellow flames, and was supposed to light the fires of looove. Poor Daddy went around with a strong and strange chemical odor until the day, sometime in early January, when the bottle went missing.
No matter the reason, Daddy piled us into the car and we took off to Roses, the wonderful department store of my youth. Brother and I made right for the toy department, arguing over whether Mama wanted a new Barbie or an addition to the Hot Wheels track that wound all around our room. Daddy was having none of that, and after a strict lecture on the value of mamas and our lack of gratitude for all that she put up with every single day, we saw the error of our ways and slunk off to the grownup department.
Mama didn’t want a blender, we were sure of it, and since Grandmaw got to bring home the seconds from the cotton mill where she worked, we had plenty of towels. We almost got her a scale. Daddy looked off into the distance, grinning, visions of his soon-to-be childless life dancing in his head. His conscience eventually got the better of him, and he sighed and said that a scale was out, so the search for a perfect gift continued.
We finally meandered up to the jewelry counter, and Daddy started to relax a little. How could we go wrong with jewelry? Brother and I were entranced with all of the shiny metal and sparkly rocks. Would Mama like a “diamond” ring? Or a string of “pearls”? There were some of each available in our price range, and they were “tray elegantay”, as one of Mama’s friends always said.
Daddy let his guard down, and before he knew it, he’d lost the battle. He found us, rapt, in front of the brooches. We stood firm, through all of his cajoling and the kind counter lady’s suggestions of more appropriate selections. We knew we’d found the perfect Mother’s Day gift. There wouldn’t be anything like it in town. And we had enough money to each pick one out.
We wrapped the flat boxes and covered them with bows, and that Sunday Mama opened the gifts that she would treasure forever. My gift to her was a little pin shaped like an apple, with jointed arms and legs that moved freely, and great big googley eyes. Brother gave her one that looked like a colorful parrot, with a long sparkly tail and great big googley eyes.
Mama was transported with joy, of course, as every mother is the first time her child picks out a Mother’s Day gift. She wore both of the pins that day, and all through my childhood she brought them out. They festooned hats and t-shirts and occasionally even a jacket lapel. She laughed and laughed over those silly pins that we’d thought were so beautiful, but she always made us think they were the best presents she’d ever gotten.
On a shelf in my bedroom, holding up a big stack of books, is the best present I ever got. A wonderful, smiling figurine of an iguana, in subtle shades of green and blue, he sits in a place of honor. Stepdaughter was around eleven the first time she spent Mother’s Day with us. I’d smiled at the little statue when I saw him on display at a local art fair, and the next morning, Mother’s Day, there he was, in her outstretched hands. I’ll never put him away.
Happy Mother’s Day!