Mother’s Day

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 …

This seemed a lot easier when I was 4.
This seemed a lot easier when I was 4.

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.

Brooch in my mind's eye
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.

My new butterfly brooch
I never did get the hang of those butterfly antlers.

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. :)

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10 thoughts on “Mother’s Day”

  1. The case of the missing brooch was more like this: After nearly wearing it out (felt wings flopped, glitter almost gone, safety pin would no longer close right), I (MOM) retired the valued brooch to my most secure jewelry box and continued to treasure it daily (as well as check on its presence). I didn’t include this valuable (ONE-OF-A-KIND!!!) item in our insurance policy for fear that the insurance clerk would come some nite and steal it. I didn’t even put it under the mattress! After years of living with the fear that this inestimably valuable brooch would be stolen, I reluctantly gave it to Kathy whom I knew would value it as much as I did. I was right! She did not record it in your insurance policy for the same fear as I had, and I KNOW it has been secured in such a secret place that not even she knows where it is. But I can tell you where it is: it is where all the rest of those Christmas, birthday, etc. presents are hidden that never have been found, and when you move, you will find them. However, by then YOU will have grandchildren – maybe one of them will value the lovely yellow and black brooch with still a few specks of glitter. As to the new one – it is very lovely and it’s remarkable how you bent that paper clip – but where is the safety pin? I don’t think I will need to hide this one from your brother!

  2. Tim, I really do think you ought to compile some of your posts and make a McManus type book. Honest. This was a great post….enjoyed the humor and the message.

  3. I have never laughed so much in my life! That brooch is quite boo-tiful, Timmy!! hee.hee. In all fairness, mom gave me that ugly ladybug that I painted at camp when I was in grade school. She claimed that I might want it sitting on my own kitchen windowsill now – ha! Tricky isn’t she??

    My ugly ladybug beats your bootiful butterfly!!

  4. For the record. I have not ever (and I mean ever) stolen any brooches, butterfly or otherwise. Granted, the temptation might be severe if suddenly confronted (with no preparation ahead of time) with such a meticulously crafted piece of jewelry. I would direct you instead to the legend of the infamous Volksmarching plate that has figured in many a cross-Atlantic postal foray–as I recall this somehow involved Tim as a prominent actor. Clearly, the concept of misplacing valued items is not a novel force in Tim’s life. Rather than casting aspersions and flailing about wildly motivated by guilt, Tim should cast an inward glance perhaps?

  5. I’ve been the blessed recipient of a gift like this also. It had one large pink plastic button, two inches in diameter, another similar button which color I’ve managed to block out, and both were strung onto a wide pink shoelace with silver glitter.

    I can’t imagine what the preschool was thinking with this one, they must hvae run out of budget . . .

    I would faithfully wear it to work often, removing it as soon as I got down the street and replacing it when I pulled my keys out for the drive home. I did that for two years. :) I surely have it tucked away someplace, after all of that, I can’t imagine that it ever got “lost”!

  6. Although Kathy (who is seeking to break her current record of 18 comments for a given post) says that it is best to respond to each comment individually, I’m more of a single-comment-response kind of guy.

    Mom — you cannot imagine how relieved I am to hear that the brooch was truly valued as it deserved. I’m sure you’re anxious to acquire this new model, but you’re right, I’m still looking for a safety pin to bring this master-work to fruition. You wouldn’t happen to have one, would you?

    De’Etta — I’m tickled pink that you recognized the McManus-esque tone of this post. I’ve often wished that my writing would be more like his. Thank you for your kind words.

    Posie — I reject your wild claims that your ladybug is in any way ‘superior’ to my butterfly brooch. You’ll have to show a picture. E-mail it to me and I’ll be sure to post it with many a favorable comment, I’m sure.

    Mark — clearly your therapy is incomplete. Isn’t one of the first, and most important parts of overcoming a problem of such magnitude, the need to admit your jealous kleptomania? You can try to muddy the waters with groundless counter-accusations, but sooner or later you’ll have to come to grips with your own character flaws. Either that, or perhaps you think you could make a better brooch? I’ll bet Rebecca would lend you some beads … ?

    With regard to the Volksmarching plate (the one with the attractive paper decal that wasn’t quite centered on the plate), I think it is very tasteless of you to rub salt in the wound of my loss, by bringing it up. As you know, it was a cherished remembrance of my friendship with your family and the happy times we spent traipsing around the German countryside. Sadly, it was … er, lost … in a tragic accident involving a skunk and a hairdryer. Even now, as I remember it, a tear comes to my eye.

  7. Samuel – they got me an adorable MP3 player. It’s bright pink and super small (tinier than my cell phone). I’ll have to post a picture on it.

    Great Mother’s Day present!!

  8. I LOVE both of your writing styles… make me want to quit blogging (LOL)… I only have so much time you know and I’d rather read your blog than write my dry, humorless, posts about our too-busy days.

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