What's the perfect Mother's Day gift? It depends, I suppose, on your fantasies.
For some mothers, the perfect gift would be something really fancy: airline tickets for trips to Ibiza to coincide with all school holidays, a playhouse built in the backyard with an electrified fence and a neon sign saying "Mothers Only," or the services of a French chef for a year.
This perfect gift problem really doesn't raise its head when kids are little. What mother doesn't go weak in the knees when her toddler hands her a 38-cent red plastic owl pin bought with pennies saved over a month, or a remaindered book on how to grow your own mushrooms in the basement bought with $3 that her grandparents sent her to spend on herself?
And mothers are notoriously easily moved to snuffling tears by those handmade cards full of beautiful flowers and birds, smiling mothers and children and carefully printed messages with backwards s's and n's that express love and cheer.
The problem is more likely to arise when children become teen-agers. At that point, Mother's Day can become an embarrassment marked by a certain lack of sentiment and reliance on cards with silly messages. It must be this trend that has led me to fantasize about the perfect Mother's Day gift for me.
What I would like are statements, statements so wonderful and moving, so heady and glorious that they are beyond price.
What I'd like for Mother's Day is for my teen-agers to come up to me and say, "Hi, Mom, I know we've both been pretty busy lately and haven't had a chance to talk and you must be wondering how my intellectual, physical and emotional development is coming along. Well, I'd like to sit down and talk it over with you."
Sigh. And what about these?
"Mom, I'd like you to tell me which of my friends you really like and which you don't. I appreciate your evaluations of my friends' characters; you haven't led me astray yet."
"Mom, what do you think of my boy/girl friend? What advice do you have for me about dating, necking, hickeys and all that?"
"Hey, Mom, let me tell you about the rich, full day I've had." (or) "I want your opinion about a troubling thing that happened in math today." (or) "I've arranged my week so that we can sit around this afternoon and I could answer all your questions about school, my after-school activities, my television watching, reading, homework and personal hygiene habits."
"Smack! There's a kiss for my Mom." (and) "Here's a big hug for my Mom right in front of all her friends so they know how much I really love her."
"I love it when you call me by your pet names for me and talk to me in babytalk and remind me of how I used to love stuffed animals. It takes me back to the days when I was a baby and enjoyed giggling and reading those cute books with you."
"Gee, Mom. I'm sorry I was angry and said those terrible things. Please forgive me. I'm just learning what the limits of good and bad behavior are and how to handle my anger. I'm appalled that I may have offended the one person whose good opinion means more to me than anyone else's. How can I make it up to you?"
"Would you sing me one of those great songs that were popular when you were my age? I love the way you sing. You've got style!"
"Mom, I thought I'd ask you for a ride to the movie today but then it occurred to me it would be good for my independence training if I took the bus, rode my bike, walked or jogged. After all, it's always important to take advantage of the fresh air, of my youth and energy, and to appreciate nature. And it's not fair for me to assume that you are always ready to take me places. When you do, I deeply appreciate it, but I shouldn't take you for granted.
"By the way, Mom, while I'm on my way to the movies, are there any errands I can do for you?"
"Any chores I can do today? It's about time I did something for you, seeing how much you do for me. Would you like the garage cleaned out? The basement swept and restored to order? The lawn mowed, raked and edged? The laundry folded? The oven cleaned? The toilet and bathtub given a really good scrubbing?"
"You know, Mom, I'd really like to organize my bedroom and all my possessions in really tiptop shape. Can you give me some advice on how to store my things and how to clean my room?"
"Ha, ha, ha, Mom. Wow! What a great joke! Nobody has a sense of humor like my Mom!"
"Hey, guys, listen. My mom might have some ideas about what we might do today. I often follow her suggestions and always have an interesting time when I do."
"You know, Mom, it has occurred to me that if I wore my older brother's/sister's cast-off clothes, I could save you a lot of time and money." (and) "Could you fasten my gloves to the sleeves of my coat so I'll be sure not to lose them?" (and) "I'm getting tired of junk food, it's not good for me and it's expensive. You know what I'd like? A nice big bowl of fruit or leftover stew."
And finally, "You know, Mom, the more I look upon the artifacts of my peer group, the video games, the loud, decadent rock 'n' roll music, the disgusting skin-tight jeans, the more I envy your youth when values were high and activities wholesome and worthwhile. Can you tell me more about those days, Mom?"
I can dream, can't I? In the meantime, there are three little words I'd be happy to settle for: "Hey, Mom, phone's for you.