BR’s Childhood Tale: When Mother’s Day Reality Didn’t Match the Greeting Card


As Mother’s Day approaches, I’m remembering one godawful Mother’s Day when I was 9 and my big sister was 11. We forgot to get our mother a present, and she went nuts, storming into her bedroom and slamming the door after an eruption of angry weeping and ranting.

We felt horrible. This was not her style. Normally when she was upset with us, she’d emit a steady stream of sarcastic mutterings under her breath as she went about her housework, describing our infractions with the eloquence of a color sportscaster. We were used to that. But this level of upset was different, and we felt awful.

We quickly put our heads together, pooled our meager cash reserves, and walked to the drug store up the street (the only retail establishment that was open on a Massachusetts Sunday in the 1950’s). We found some low-end perfume we could afford. (We may have gotten a temporary loan from the clerk. It was a small town and people did things like that.)

We raced back home, knocked on her bedroom door and sheepishly offered her our gift. She looked at it and said something withering, to the effect of, “Too late. You blew it”, and closed the door again.

My sister and I still talk about that day every now and then. (She, being the oldest, felt especially bad.)

Looking back with the smarts of hindsight, it’s obvious that my mother was depressed. Something was going on. Maybe she was having a rough patch with my father. (He normally would remind us about her birthday and Mother’s Day, and helped us execute a plan – where was he that year?) Maybe an early menopause was messing with her hormones. Perhaps she was having a mid-life, ‘what’s it all about’ existential crisis all her own.

She worked very hard for us, was devoted and steady, kept after the house meticulously, cooked a 3 or 4 course meal every night, and put up with a certain amount of personal disappointment, having grown up at a time when a very brainy, capable woman was told to learn shorthand and became an executive secretary until she married. She and my father deferred their ambitions and placed them firmly on the luckier shoulders of their kids. She deserved to be remembered on Mother’s Day, even if it is a made-up holiday, invented by greeting card company marketers in search of expanding the market.

So that left me with a takeaway – do right by your mother, even if she’s far from perfect. Acknowledgement on Mother’s Day is a good thing. A thoughtful gift is even better. And a thoughtful gift that takes into account her emotional well-being might make the best gift of all. Check out our Mother’s Day Gift Basket – it covers all the bases. I wish my sister and I had had it that Mother’s Day morning, 57 years ago.

Take care and be well.