A recent national survey concluded that the most popular Mother's Day gifts are flowers, apparel and gift cards. How could we get it so wrong?
I'm reminded of one woman's response when she was asked if she knew when Mother's Day was: "Mother's Day is any day my children call me." There's only one thing your mother wants on Mother's Day — and that's you. Talk to her! I speak as the mother of three sons who, for years, communicated only when it was necessary: "You need to sign this permission slip"; "I'm in the concert choir. I need a tux"; "I need the car Saturday night."
Set aside an hour and call her, especially if she's a senior like me whose sons have moved as far away as they can get and still live in the USA.
When you call, ask about her arthritis, and cover the receiver when you yawn.
Let her complain about unreasonable Aunt Grace — and take her side, even if you know Aunt Grace is right.
Ask how her mahjong game is, and turn the page of your morning paper quietly as she tells you in excruciating detail.
Tell her something interesting about your job or your friends.
Above all, don't be in a hurry: You have a lot to atone for. Look at all those years your poor mother had to impersonate Perry Mason to learn what was going on in your life. When you won a music award in middle school, she had to hear about it on the streets. And when you got the highest SAT score in high school, she had to learn about it at your graduation. And imagine, your mother having to hide her surprise in choir the Sunday morning her fellow alto said, "Did you ever think that our children would be dating each other? And it looks serious."
Celebrating Mother's Day is easier if your mother lives nearby. Does she have a car? Wash it. Does she have a garden? Weed it. Does she attend religious services? Go with her; let her show you off. Better still, arrange with your workplace for a take-your-mom-to-work-day. Unless, of course, you're a crab fisherman on the Bering Sea or a test pilot or a gynecologist. Then you should probably stick with a bouquet of daisies and a box of Whitman's cream-centers.
The closest I ever came to taking my mother to work with me was when she stopped by our house mornings on her way to the office. Typically, the front door would open, and she would observe me hard at work doing my job — reading to three little boys on the sofa, all of us still in pajamas. After her typical greeting — "My, it must be nice to have all your housework done" — she tore through the downstairs like a minesweeper, picking up a puzzle here and a stuffed animal there, tucking toy trucks and cowboy boots under her arms on her way to the playroom. As she deposited the toys, she could be heard mumbling, "There, now that wasn't so hard, was it?" Minutes later she kissed her three grandsons and disappeared, prompting astute observations like: "What's housework, Mommy?"
Celebrating my mom on Mother's Day back then was easy: an invitation to a neat, orderly house with three clean grandsons, an attentive husband and a well-cooked meal. Once a year it didn't kill me, and it won't kill you either. I promise.
Peggy Rowe (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a writer and former school teacher in Baltimore County. Her first book, "About my Mother...," will be out later this month