I suppose it comes as no surprise that I have a mother. Most people have one, with only a few notable exceptions. Even Joshua, son of Nun, probably had a mother.
As Mother’s Day approaches, I begin to panic. You may wonder at this strong reaction to an otherwise benign, albeit Hallmark-engendered, holiday.
The reason is this: beginning in March, Kathy and I began following a rather Spartan budget, trying to staunch the hemorrhaging of our cash flow, which we recently discovered. Knowing that we would want to celebrate such events, we wisely set aside some money for birthdays and even allocated $40 for Mother’s Day.
Unfortunately, I spent all of the budgeted funds on a gift for Kathy, leaving nothing for either her Mom or my own. In retrospect, I should have split it up a little more equitably — at least we could have bought them a valuable prize from the dollar store. Now, as the day itself looms, I cast about wildly for an idea.
I asked one of my cow-orkers:
Me: “So, got any ideas for me to use for my Mom, for Mother’s Day?”
Cow-orker: “What does she like?”
Me: “Gardening and writing, mostly.”
Cow-orker: “How ’bout a plant, or flowers, or something?”
Me: “Ummm, it’s gotta be pretty cheap.”
Cow-orker: (laughing cruelly) “Maybe a macaroni picture frame?”
I promised to revenge myself on my colleague, but the mists of time closed in, and I found myself reliving a memory …
When I was very young, I attended a pre-school. At the time, I thought it was because of my precocious brilliance and savoir faire. As it turned out, it was because the program ran Monday-Friday and offered three hours each morning that my Mom could have free. My brother was in school and my sister wasn’t yet born — who knows what Mom did in those precious hours? I’m guessing she was consulting for a ring of international fern thieves*, but it is just a guess. Those mists of time are pretty, er, misty.
*There is a story behind this particular suspicion, but not one I am at liberty to talk about so publicly.
As I recall, we preschool students were encouraged to express ourselves artistically in the weeks before Mother’s Day, so that we could present our mothers with a memorable gift. I worked my little fingers to the bone on a rather unique butterfly brooch … some would say that I succeeded a little too well in terms of making it memorable. I remember proudly bestowing it upon my Mom, secure in the knowledge that I was soon to be recognized as a major force in the jewelry design world.
Strangely, the brooch was never seen again. Ever. Coyly, I hinted that it might set off her outfit that Sunday for church, but no brooch. She went out on a date with Dad, but again, no brooch. Finally, I asked her if she was ever going to wear it, and I learned the tragic news: it had been … lost.
I was outraged. I could understand that such a valuable brooch could be stolen. Immediately I began concocting plans to catch the thieves and recapture the brooch … but how could it have been lost? She’d never worn it, not even around the house. Had my incorruptible brother been so overcome with jealousy, that he was driven to commit this heinous crime?
The mists of time lift from my eyes, and I see the world in a new light, although my cow-orker is still sneering evilly. I turn scornfully away, shoulders set with purpose. This wrong that was done so many years ago is crying out to be righted … I must make my Mom another butterfly brooch.
Cow-orker: Hey, Tim, why are walking with your shoulders hunched like that? Are you auditioning for a part in The Hunchback of Notre Dame?
Sometimes I am disappointed by the low grade of intelligence among my cow-orkers.
Later, I sat down to discuss this with my wife, and the tale took a nasty turn. She reminded me of the occasion, some two or three years ago, in which my Mom passed down the brooch to Kathy, as a retiring queen might pass down her tiara to her daughter.
“What luck,” I cried, “the brooch wasn’t lost after all! Mom probably really misses that brooch — could I possibly have it so I could give it back to her?” I implored my wife humbly.
She grimaced, blushing deeply. “Er, I don’t seem to have it anymore … it seems to have been … lost.”
My mind raced, calculating the time since my brother left the country last summer, and whether his movements could be traced the last time he was in my house. Could Mark have stolen the brooch, not once, but twice? Surely my wife must have lost the brooch recently, or she would have reported it to our insurance company already. My brother obviously needs serious therapy … let it go, Mark, let it go!
“When did you last see the brooch? Are there any pictures of you wearing it? What luck that we have taken so many pictures these last few years … it is sure to have been photographed!” I chortled gleefully, until I noticed the uneasy look in my wife’s eyes.
“Um, I don’t remember seeing it after your Mom gave it to me,” she confessed.
No wonder I had no recollection of her wearing it proudly; she isn’t usually very snooty, and it is the kind of thing I would have noticed. Maybe she didn’t put in a claim to our insurance company out of embarrassment that she had failed to secure such a valuable family heirloom in a safe place.
This afternoon, beads of sweat formed on my brow as I worked to replace the lost brooch. My stubby fingers screamed their lack of fine motor skills as the mists of time closed in again …
My little four-year-old heart was so excited about how beautiful and elegant the brooch would be, at least in my mind’s eye. I remember my preschool teacher pursing her lips in judicious assessment of my artistic ability, and commending me for my effort. Now, as I brushed away the mists from my eyes, I was determined to create a replacement brooch that would dazzle my Mom’s eye, one that she would be proud to wear on every occasion.
I figured it would look something like this, once I was done.
While I was constructing the Butterfly Brooch, Mark II, Rachel sauntered up to see what I was doing.
“What are you doing, Dad?” she asked.
“I’m building a miniature nuclear reactor,” I told her. Sometimes I’m a little short-tempered when working with my hands.
After I explained the history of the project, she asked how old I was when I made the first one.
“Shouldn’t you be able to make a better one, now that you’re 41?”
The mists of time are apparently rather persistent, because they closed in again. I remember that one of my preschool classmates, a young girl not known for excessive tact or discretion, had wandered over to the table as I added the finishing touches to my masterpiece.
“Your butterfly is all wrong — it hasn’t got any antlers,” she jeered, loudly enough so that every head turned to look at me. Red-faced, I mumbled that perhaps not all butterflies had antlers. A sing-song chorus began, “Timmy’s butterfly has no antlers, nyah, nyah, nyah.”
Sometimes the mists of time aren’t all they are cracked up to be.
As I look at my finished product, I am painfully aware that it has not lived up to the image in my mind’s eye. I’m struck by a possible parallel between the brooch and my life, and how my life has probably not lived up to the hopes and dreams that my Mom had for me. And yet, in many ways, I am living out my life as a reflection of who my Mom trained me to be. My sense of humor, my passion for justice, my stubborn tenacity in solving a problem — these are all part of my Mom’s legacy to me.
Happy Mother’s Day, Mom. I love you! Come by anytime, and I’ll give you your brooch — I know you can’t wait to wear it to General Council.