The Mother’s Day I Threw the Book at Mom
The year I was in third grade was a difficult year for my mother. She had started a new job in October that required her to work rotating shifts, one week of days and one week of nights. Just when she had adjusted to one shift, it was time to switch again so she was always tired. But my mother never complained. Despite being exhausted, she plugger right on, cooking dinner every night, never missing my older siblings’ school activities and still finding time to play with me.
But the week leading up to Mother’s Day, my mother caught a nasty cold that normally might not have stopped her, but on top of day-night rotation, almost knocked her down. She did the household stuff she had to do, but was too tired to play.
“I’m really tired right now. I promise I’ll play with you later,” she had said every day that week as she took another sip of tea and continued watching some boring grown-up TV show.
This disappointment was all forgotten, I thought when toward the end of the week, the teacher announced that we were all going to make special picture books to give to our mothers for Mother’s Day. I loved my mother dearly and despite how much I probably drove her crazy whining for her to stop watching those boring grown-up shows and play with me, I knew she loved me too. I couldn’t wait to tell her through this book how much I loved her and how much she meant to me.
The teacher gave us prompts to fill in for each page of the book like “my mother enjoys ____,” or “if I could give my mother anything in the world, I would give her ____.” The teacher’s aid helped me write my messages in both print and braille, and helped me make line drawings with puffy paint. Then the books were sent to an office in the school called the publishing center where they were given beautiful glossy covers. I was so giddy with excitement over giving my mother this beautiful book I knew she would treasure forever that I couldn’t stand waiting any longer than Saturday night to present it. I ran up to her the way little kids do and threw it in to her hands and said “Happy Mother’s Day,” in a voice quivering with eager anticipation.
As I expected, she gushed over the beautiful book when she peeled back the wrapping paper, but I didn’t expect what happened next. With all my siblings around the table, she opened it up and started reading, and laughing, hysterically.
“What’s so funny?” I asked, a bit confused.
It turned out that without even realizing it, I had written a book that was really more of an indictment.
“My mother enjoys drinking tea and watching TV on the couch.” (picture of a tea cup)
“My mother looks prettiest in her soft silk nightgown.” (picture of a nightgown)
“If I could give my mother anything in the world, I would give her a cottage and a boat on a lake so she can relax.” (picture of a boat on a peaceful lake)
I forget what the other prompts were, but basically every page made reference to how lazy I thought she had been lately.
I apologized repeatedly for that book over the years as I matured and came to have a better appreciation of how hard she worked and how selflessly she tended to us.
“I could throw it on the next bonfire I attend,” I said once.
“Don’t you dare,” she said, “I love it. It is a cute book I will treasure forever. I just laughed because all of your teachers who helped you with it probably think I am a lazy bum, and because I had been convicted.”
Perhaps the lesson my third grade teacher had intended was for us to practice our writing while also learning about the joy that comes from a hand-made gift a mother will treasure forever. But the lesson I came away with that I still keep in mind today in everything I write is that the subconscious mind is a powerful thing.