My Mama’s Pajamas
There I was again this past week, a few days before another Mother’s Day with zero inspiring ideas for how to show my precious mother how much I love her. Friends, she is damn hard to buy for. Trying to come up with some bright, creative idea to buy? or do? or a place to go see? The same burning question posed itself when we talked on the phone the other night: “Mom, please tell me what I can get you for Mother’s Day.” The best she could come up with was, “I need some pajamas, I guess.”
Ask anyone who has lost their mom…What would you give for another chance to do something for, to say to, or to show to your mom what she means to you? I think about those people and that loss all the time and it makes me ponder the opportunities I am still lucky enough to have. I want to make it all count. I don’t ever want to reflect in wonder, asking myself, did my mom know what she meant to me? I don’t ever want my mother (or anyone I love) to feel like I don’t get it. I do. I recognize that my life is full of people who do so much for me and at a minimum I need to be that kind of person for others as well. Thank you and I love you, or some sappy Facebook post (we all do it!) with a nostalgic picture go a long way but if we can do better, I think we should.
My mom would tell you she doesn’t need anything, not even pajamas, if she’s honest. She would tell you that she’s happy just getting to talk to me when I call or visit. I believe there will come a day for me as well when seeing my son’s car pull in the driveway will be all the present I could want. It’s true: as we get older, the things that make us the happiest are things money can’t buy but my message today is that there is something imperative about vigilance in showing the people who have loved us the most in the world that they mean enough to go to a little trouble…spend some money…put forth a respectable amount of effort. If we aren’t doing this, it’s time to talk about why it should be more important.
We spend our money on the things we love.
If your child owns an expensive baseball bat or has state-of-the-art devices, or if your husband drives a fishing boat or rides a motorcycle, or if you’re like me and you spend an irresponsible amount of money on pretty shoes, or if you’ve splurged on a Spring Break beach rental… you know what I’m talking about. When those kinds of purchases bring us such pure, childlike happiness, or when they bring us together as a family on the rare weekend when everyone can miraculously gather in the same place, swiping that credit card is pretty exhilarating. That magical feeling is worth all the sacrifices we make to pay for it all. But I hope someone is doing that for you too, privately. Just you. I hope someone who loves YOU is making you see that you’re the ‘thing’ they love. I hope that if it’s been awhile since you wow’d your husband or your dad or a sibling or a friend with some caring sentiment that swept them off their feet…because they are good to you and you want them to know you see…then I hope you’ll take the time to check that box for a change. too.
I am not a materialistic person but I do have some standards. Let me assure you, I’ve been the reluctant recipient of both gym memberships and VCRs in the past and those gifts suck. They did not make me feel valued, and most certainly not loved. I’ve been handed sprays of colorful daisies from Publix that made me feel like a queen and then I’ve also plunked expensive roses into a vase and didn’t care when they died… if I knew they weren’t given with joy and a full heart. I’ve swooned over beautiful, simple watches and I’ve also returned obligatory diamonds. It’s more about unwrapping a present that someone poured their heart into. They thought about it, they planned for it and that’s the best kind of gift there is. There’s a balance to gifting, and the perfect gesture falls somewhere between thoughtful, contemplative and personal and down the line meets with impressive or unexpected. A successful effort occurs when we have simultaneously shown the receiver that we (1) didn’t wait until the last minute, (2) didn’t simply drop some dough just to check off a box and (3) recognize that they are more dear and precious to us than the hobbies we’re invested in or the cars that are parked in our driveways.
Yesterday it came to me. I called my mom to thank her for helping my son with his Mother’s Day shopping (because I am trying to train my son to be good to his wife one day by teaching him how to be good to me now. I said to her, “Do not let him get me a candle. Make him think about it.“) So she and I were talking about what we were going to do for Mother’s Day and you know what? That pressure in my chest was no longer there because I actually have a great idea.
I am going to pick her up and we are going to spend the whole day together.
I will buy her Starbucks and we will listen to the Oldies station on our way to the outlet mall. We are going to spend hours in the car telling stories about when she was young; I especially love the ones about what a handful I was to raise.
I want her to tell me about growing up in the Sixties listening to Otis Redding and going to James Brown concerts. That never gets old for me. Ever.
We are going to shop a little bit. Now we aren’t big shoppers, but walking alongside my mom and looking at girly things, smelling perfumes and laughing about how our feet hurt after just an hour, and why I can’t read the tags without my glasses while she laughs at me for getting old… that isn’t a terrible way to spend a day.
We will have lunch at a restaurant that serves something indulgent that she absolutely loves, and we will share a dessert. It will be my treat.
And then I will insist that she find the most comfortable, snuggly pair of pajamas the outlet mall has to offer. The sky’s the limit. Because if my mama wants pajamas, then pajamas it is. I might buy us both a pair so we match…so that every time I wear them I will think about her and that day.
We might see a movie, too, and if we do we will share a big bag of popcorn. I will let her put way too much salt on it because that’s the way she likes it. We will laugh when one of us trips up the stairs trying to find our seats.
The drive home will be unhurried because I am not making any other plans and will have nowhere else I need to be. When you get older you start to notice how busy everybody else is and it’s so nice when someone says, “we can take all the time we want.”
And when I take her home she will hug my neck and tell me thank you, since she isn’t used to being anything but a Giver. I will enjoy that so much for a change…being the one who is doing for my mother instead of the other way around.
For the first time in my whole life, I am not actually dreading Mother’s Day. I am really looking forward to it, especially since FedEx also delivered a big box to my front door today. Way to go, Ben! I am excited because I am honoring someone who spent every day of my life loving me more than anything. One day when she is no longer with me and for all the years I will spend missing her, I hope I won’t have to wonder if I could have done more to show her how thankful I am that she is my mom.
Happy Mother’s Day!
A follow-up report: Sunday, May 15, 2016
The Mother’s Day date I shared with my mom finally took place today, a week after Mother’s Day and after an annoying amount of scheduling and rescheduling. It was not lost on me that there were times when I sensed one or both of us thinking about backing out, something I bet is pretty common in any family or group of friends with long days and busy schedules. Sometimes just finding the time to be in the same place requires a ridiculous amount of work, but we pressed on, didn’t give up, and wouldn’t let each other out. That determination kept my eye on my goal and I am pleased to report that our day together was everything I dreamed it would be. I thank God and a good guilt trip for making it happen.
We shopped until our hips would hardly hold us up anymore. No pajamas were to be found but we did get pretty excited about our matching high-tech watermelon slicers. We bought more for our husbands and sons that we did for ourselves; we ate so much for lunch that we almost napped in the car; we enjoyed gelato AND Starbucks, and ended the day laughing as we left the department store, my mother setting off the alarm unknowingly carrying clothes under her arm without paying attention. I had to settle for buying her six bottles of foaming hand wash, on sale at Bath and Body Works, because that is literally all she said she needed. That, and the watermelon slicer she says she’s ‘always’ wanted.
It was a beautiful day with a beautiful person. So worth… everything. Make the time. Spend the money. Treasure the moments.