(But man, do they make me look bad.)
This was my first time around on Mother’s Day being the Dad, and I have to say, it’s not as easy as it looks. A large part of that is due to circumstances–I ride my bike to work, and my office is located in the great suburban wasteland of Northern Virginia, which means that there’s no convenient way for me to shop for Mama, unless I want to get her a gift card at CVS, Subway, or McDonalds.
I know, I know, there’s the innernets, right? What’s this whole system of tubes for, if not to be filled with trucks bearing presents for Mother’s Day? But this is Mama’s first Mother’s Day, and I wanted to hand pick what 3B and I were giving her. Plus, I totally slacked on the easiest parts of my gifts until the last minute, which is how I got to witness the man-on-man madness that is shopping on the night before Mother’s Day.
Mine was the perspective of an interested observer who somehow got caught up in the fray for a moment, like the guy you see in his hat and coat–tie flapping behind him, wingtips slapping the cobblestones–in the pictures of the running of the bulls–that one guy who got swept up into the chase from his cafe table alongside the street. My needs were simple. Our budget these days is rather limited, now that we’re working with half the salary we used to, and Mama kept insisting that she didn’t want anything expensive, and she’s keeping track of our books, so she’ll know if I lie about that. Besides, I had long ago picked out the most precious part of the gift when we were in Chicago–although I hadn’t wanted to give it to Mama when I got it.
Although I don’t plan ahead well for birthdays or holidays, I did finally learn one of my Mom’s tricks, which is to shop year ’round. Unfortunately, I only learned to apply it to Mom, but that’s why, when we were in Chicago, I picked up a special gift for Mom. Ever since I flew to Chicago to meet Mama on her roadtrip when she was moving out to live with me in Colorado, Mom had been telling me stories about how her Mom, Grandmother to me, had gone to Chicago on shopping trips from the college that she attended, and how GM had stopped in at Marshall Field’s on those trips.
Mom and I mused about whether or not GM got Frango mints–of course she did–and what little things she would have afforded for herself on these trips. I, of course, picked up a box of Frango mints and a few other Marshall Field’s-specific items for Mom and gave them to Mom for Christmas the year that Mama moved to Colorado. When Mama and I were last in Chicago, we both talked with Mom about Marshall Field’s some more and while we were there, Mama and I again headed to the great store to have a nosh at the top of the atrium and do a little shopping.
After Mom died, I thought for a long time about what to do with this charm, when it came to me, it was suddenly, and so clearly that I felt thick for not thinking of it before. And so it was that I passed on to Mama the charm that has a lineage stretching back through two generations of mothers in my family–three if you want to stretch it back to GM’s mom, who sent her off in 1918 to college in Indiana from her home in Laramie.
So, on the night of man-on-man madness, I was looking for a simple, but beautiful charm bracelet to hang this charm on. I was done with my purchase in a few minutes, but I did stand back and marvel at all of the chaos that was desperate men pawing through chains, baubles, and earrings, looking for that one shiny thing that would say all that they had in their hearts. We likely came together for similar reasons–any dad is a busy dad–but I was glad that my needs were more simple, and that I could slip easily away from the fray.
After giving Mama her gifts on Sunday morning–the chain from 3B, the charm from me, my Mom, and my GM–we went out for coffee and pastries and a quick romp at the dog park for Barky. There’s no sleeping in when you have a nine-month old almost toddler–especially one who’s up at 6:00 every morning. (I swear, he’s so punctual, he must be hiding an alarm clock in his mattress.) After a nap for all four of us, I made Mama a brunch of sourdough waffles with whipped cream and strawberries. The sourdough starter that I use is split off from my Mom’s, and goes back to before my time, back to when she and Dad were first married, before they moved back to New Jersey for four years (and three kids), but it tastes as fresh now as it did every Sunday growing up, when Mom and Dad would use it to make waffles.
After brunch, we spent the day how Mama wanted–together and outside. We drove down to the Potomac, walked out to an old lighthouse, where 3B ate a dandelion, up to Olde Towne, where Mama and I ate some ice cream cones, and then back to the car. We were all tired by the end of the day, but satisfied. Looking back on it, it wasn’t as hard as I thought it was going to be, or as hard as it was fun. I don’t know why I expected any different–after all, it was a perfect day for me too, hanging out with my two best friends. However, I’ve already decided to start shopping now for next year’s gifts.
No, seriously. Whaddya got?