My perfect Mother's Day gift
The orange Hermes shopping bag is the perfect backdrop for this Mother's Day collage. Photo by Ralph Stewart
For a child, is there a more stressful gift-giving occasion than Mother's Day? Bombarded with advertising, "Every kiss begins with Kay" and "Give Mom what she really wants," children young and old are reminded that they better get it right, especially on Mother's Day. I grew up with three sisters, each one smarter, more artistic, and much cleverer than I when it came to gift giving. And my mother, a child of the Great Depression, was not a gracious gift recipient. Gifts had to be useful, preferably recycled from six other things that were at the end of their usefulness. A homemade Mother's Day card with bits of elbow macaroni glued in a heart pattern wouldn't cut it in my house. Within minutes of opening it, my mother would be in the kitchen peeling the tiny elbows from the card and putting them back into the box.
With my own child I am very different. I have saved every card, letter, tiny gift, and doodad she has ever given me - a 36-year collection I treasure. But Mother's Day was no big deal. We deconstructed it early on, deciding it was just too commercial for us. We would laugh at all those people waiting in long lines at restaurants. "Why don't they just cook her a nice meal at home?" we'd ask.
I do get Mother's Day cards, sometimes two or three each year. They are always dripping with sarcasms and I can picture her laughing out loud at the card display.
She occasionally thinks inside the box. One year she instructed me to go to C.B. Stark in Vineyard Haven. There, I found a new charm for my charm bracelet that she had ordered. That same year she told my husband to take me to breakfast at the Daggett House. We went before the crowds descended.
My favorite Mother's Day gift arrived a few years ago. It is a collage assembled on a Hermes bag. We share the same gene that forces us to save every shopping bag with handles we have ever received. When Bloomingdales started using "the big brown bag" we thought it couldn't get any better than this. So, the fact that my daughter cut up a sacred Hermes bag and used it as the blank canvas for my gift amazed me.
The best thing about the images is that they represent how she sees me: intelligent, modern, strong, stylish, and fun. It doesn't matter that I rarely see myself like that. She does. Each time I look at the collage it inspires me, lifts me up, makes me laugh, and fills me with joy. Could a gift do more?