I hope I don't have to remind you that tomorrow is Mother's Day, or, as it's known in my house, "The Feast of Bacon and Aerosol Whipped Cream."
After the ritual eating of the bacon and the whipped cream – usually, but not always, separately – my kids will pull out their Mother's Day presents from their backpacks: Crumpled paper tulips stuck together with cheese from Tuesday's lunch, and handmade cards that offer a reminder of how many ways there are to spell "happy."
In other words, the best gifts ever. Young children have it easy this weekend, because every card and Popsicle-stick dreamcatcher a teacher forced them to make will bring tears to their mother's eye. She'll store the gifts away carefully for the day when they forget to call and she wants to remember that they were once tiny and grateful for her company.
It's when you get older that Mother's Day becomes tricky. I've been trying to think of gifts for two stellar women, my mother and my mother-in-law, both of whom have worked hard and lived generously and deserve recognition for the effort. One gave me life and the other a husband; I'm pretty sure a juicer is not adequate repayment.
There are, of course, thousands of gift options out there, and they become more esoteric each year. A store in LA sells dog biscuits with the word "mom" on them (an ambiguous message, at best) and in the UK you can buy her a pair of $1,000 shoes made of chocolate. A poll this week showed that 68 per cent of Canadians will buy a Mother's Day present, spending an average of $107 each. That's a lot of mango-scented bath bombs.
Bad gifts are easier to identify than good ones. Don't buy your mother a candle, for instance. I can guarantee you that she already has a drawer filled with candles from previous birthdays and Christmases, and there's a limit to the regifting a woman can do in one lifetime. Only churches and brothels need more candles. Likewise, no carnations. A carnation is a shrug in flower form. Carnations say, "I've thought about you for precisely 30 seconds in the last year, as I was driving by the Shell station."
Instead, give her something unique. Something that suggests she is in your thoughts all year, and not just one day in May. These ideas might get you started:
How about a television remote that she could actually use? That is, one that has only two buttons: The first says "off/on" and the other " Murdoch Mysteries ."
You could help her empty out her guilt box. Every mother has one, filled to overflowing with half-remembered pain important only to her: The time she accidentally sewed the legs of your skating costume together, or the fact that she couldn't help you with algebra homework and kept you from being the world-renowned architect that destiny commanded. Emptying a guilt box is reasonably easy: Just say, "Mom, it's not important. I've forgotten about it, and so should you." Then take her hand and put a margarita in it.
She might appreciate it if you learned a tiny bit about your family tree, so that when she mentions the medical travails of obscure relatives, you can respond like a human being instead of a member of the Olympic eye-rolling team. For example:
Mom: "Phyllis is feeling much better."
You: "Ah, Phyllis. Don't tell me. Sciatica, right? No? Salmonella? Shingles! Damn, I was so close. How's her beagle, anyway?"
It might be nice to listen to her stories. Ask her about how motherhood has changed since she was young; this is a guaranteed good time. My mother likes to tell the story about the day she looked after her four kids, and five of her friends' children, and my brother tied her to a chair using her apron strings. She finally freed herself, and retaliated by locking all the children in the cellar for the rest of the day. I've often suggested she should write a parenting manual.
You might buy her an extra pair of hands, or an additional inch of forehead, so she can raise her eyebrow at you that little bit further. If you manage to find her another hour in the day, she'd love you forever. Not that she doesn't already.
What about taking her to see a play or movie where a mother is a central character? Long Day's Journey into Night , let's say, or The Manchurian Candidate . That way, at the end, she'll think to herself: Well, at least I'm not a morphine addict or a traitorous psychopath! I'm just well-meaning and sometimes adequate, like all the other moms out there.
If none of those suggestions work, you can at least make her a card. A handwritten card, with the word "happy" spelled correctly. You can bet she'll cry, and then she'll put it with the others she's been saving for all these years.