Mothers can be difficult. I know. I am one, and have had my share of eyes rolled at me, and sighs of exasperation vented my way.
But shopping for mothers can be even more difficult.
First of all, she doesn’t want “things.” For the past several years she has been trying to give many of her things away, and agonizes over how to divide up household possessions fairly between children and grandchildren. So more things are not what she wants.
When my children were little she was always delighted to have the latest crayon artwork in a frame, and a nice photograph of them, but the crayons have long been put away, and it has been years since I’ve been able to assemble everyone on the living room couch for a nice family picture.
For a while mother requested homemade beeswax candles from the farmers market, but that has apparently gone out of fashion. And hiking socks were always welcome. In her mid-seventies, my mother is still an avid hiker and adventurer. I even used to knit the socks myself, but now someone has invented a sock that wicks moisture away, and has a long list of ingredients, so plain old wool appears to have gone out of fashion also.
One year we gave a much appreciated set of gardening hand tools. I asked, last year, if they perhaps needed replacing. But no, the tools have been as carefully cared for as her glorious garden, and will probably last to be handed down to the next gardener in the family.
Books are usually a good bet. My mother is a voracious reader, so we have to find a book that just came out, in the last month or so, and hope she hasn’t read it. History, scientific discovery, and nature are all good subjects. And local California authors usually come through for us. She will unwrap the book carefully, “saving the paper for next year” and read it over the next three days of her visit to Berkeley, leaving it for us on her bedside table. Sometimes she leaves with the book a brief commentary, jotted on an index card, ending with a thank you.
It is now a few days before Christmas, and I still don’t have a book, or socks for her. When she calls to tell us her arrival time at the airport, I ask if there is anything she wants for Christmas this year. “No,” she responds, “Nothing, I don’t want things.” I hang up, and sigh.
The telephone rings seconds later. “I know what I want,” says the familiar voice. “Oh really, great!” I say, mentally calculating the free hours I have to find what ever it is she wants. “What is it?” I ask. “A mask and snorkel,” mother responds. Did I roll my eyes? I certainly breathed a deep sigh of relief. “Wonderful,” I respond, “I even know a dive shop where we can get you outfitted when you get here.” Finally. Shopping for mother, is done.