It started when I was about 17 and wanted to take my mom out to dinner for Mother’s Day. I didn’t really have much money and mom knew it so she told me, “Honey, I’ll make you a deal. For every year that you’re not a mother I’ll buy you dinner.”
Although she may have thought that I needed an incentive not to have kids, what I really enjoyed about our annual dinners was just being with her, alone and without an audience. Of course as time and distance separated us, the dinners gave in to phone calls, which I still enjoyed nonetheless.
We had a deal about birthdays and Christmas too. I have always stressed about giving presents since I’m not a natural gifter. Evidently I inherited this anti-gift gene from her since she admitted she hated the obligation of gifting as well. So the deal was we would not exchange gifts…we would do dinners, phone calls, and cards.This was to be our ongoing gift to each other: freedom from obligation.
We kept this up over the years, although there were times when we would both be so busy the phone call would be quicker than it should have been. But we knew that we loved each other deeply and whatever we did give each other was done out of love, and not obligation or guilt.
Then, In 2005, she began buying me gifts. I would get them in the mail and open them slowly, confused and rattled with guilt since I hadn’t sent her anything in years. We had a deal. She started sending me cards much more regularly and at one point she asked that I come to see her since she had some things of hers she wanted me to have. Although she professed to be fine, I found out later that she knew she had cancer. She passed in April 2006, and as I was going through her belongings, I found the few gifts that I had given her when I was a child: A carved ivory perfume bottle from our days in Waikiki; Poetry I had written in San Francisco; Embroidered linens I had stitched during a summer spent on a Missouri farm. She had kept them all those years. I guess my gifts didn’t really suck after all.
Happy Mother’s Day everyone.