Scarves, Jelly Beans and Vacuum Cleaners

My mom’s birthday was this past week. And I have to say, of all family members, shopping for my mother is always the hardest, as she likes to pick out her own jewelry and clothes.

I used to get her books, but then she got a Kindle, and getting someone a virtual book isn’t as exciting a present. And curiously, my mother seems to have the anti-technology gene. What I mean is, we can all get the same technology for Christmas – MP3 players, for example, and my mother always seems to get the one with the broken power button that won’t work right that we have to take back to the store.

When it’s my dad’s birthday, on the other hand, he has usually made a list for us at least a month in advance, with multiple copies to distribute to various family members. This list usually includes items that are useless in modern society such as: pants with detachable legs, water bottles that filter for bacteria and sediment, an atomic clock with a belt clip and LED-micro light, or sunglasses that float in water and repel insects with supersonic sound. Well, I take it back, those might be useful. Of running off your family, who won’t want to be seen with you whenever you wear them.

When it comes time for my mom’s birthday and I ask her what she wants, however, I always get the same response. “Oh, I don’t know honey…I’ll have to think about it.” That puts the giver in the awkward position of having to nag the recipient into telling them what they want.

Which is generally why I have given my mom gift cards for the last several years in a row.

There’s nothing wrong with gift cards, mind you…it’s just that being a mom, she rarely spends them on herself.  Like the time I got her a Dillard’s card she bought me a pair of shoes and a new coat, or the time we got her a Hobby Lobby gift card and she wound up getting art supplies for my sister’s classroom.

This year I thought about getting her an gift card, but when my dad started hinting that a new season of Rocket City Rednecks was coming out, I decided to break the pattern and get her an actual present.

An actual present….Hmm.

I started by trying to think of previous gifts that were a hit. I got her an outdoor scarf for Christmas that she really liked, but it was at a seasonal kiosk that is now selling watches. And technically, it’s March.

One year, I got her a new Bible. This was also a hit, but you only need one, and they don’t have a sequel. Made of genuine leather, that thing will probably outlive us all.

A few years ago, I got her a monogrammed recipe book holder. You know, so if more than one person is cooking in the kitchen you can tell whose recipe book is whose, I guess. But then again, you only need one of those. Unless your initials change.

She has started taking a regular yoga class at the YMCA, so I thought about yoga DVDs. But this is unsteady ground, as yoga DVDs are dangerously close to weight loss videos. And what if the instructor is weird? If I come back in six weeks and find my mom in downward-facing dog talking about how the  bacteria on the carpet are living organisms too, won’t I only have myself to blame? (Wait, nevermind – there’s no bacteria in my mom’s house. And she’s got the traffic-light vacuum cleaner to prove it. It shows “red” when the floor is dirty and “green” when the floor is clean, and she will vacuum an 8×8 square patch of carpet for two hours until she gets the green light. But I digress.)

With time running out, I desperately began to think of things my mom likes.

Toasted marshmallow jelly belly beans? Always a hit, but that gift doesn’t really say “adult child with a responsible job.” And if she’s on a diet, I can see the mildly disapproving glance now…similar to the time I gave her shampoo. Which was close, but not quite as bad as the time I gave her teeth whitener.

A CD? Nice…but I don’t think my mom knows who Bruno Mars or Coldplay is. And it took a while to get her out of that Celtic Woman phase.

Spanx? Let’s not go there. I’m not supposed to know that, and I’m probably not supposed to put that on my blog.

So with one day before the big day, I have completely run out of ideas.

My sister is planning a birthday dinner…you know, “Your attendance is your gift” sort of thing, which as it turns out, I have to miss. #fail

With all creative ideas now exhausted, I find myself staring at a Hallmark card and a handful of cash.

I guess this birthday will go the way of the greenbacks…the final effort of over-analytical children and last-minute planners everywhere.

I should put it in an envelope titled, “It’s my Birthday, and All I Got Was This Lousy Blog Post” just for good measure.


Happy Birthday Mom.

Don’t spend it all in one place.