Most parents, when they receive a gift from their children, will ooh and aah and say how much they love it, whether or not they actually do. Not Ma. If a gift doesn’t pass muster, she’ll tell you; primarily with a look that says: are you kidding me, you stole my youth and now you’re giving me this?!
Ma is not mean or ungrateful, quite the opposite; rather, she is pathologically honest. Example: once on a train the ticket fellow overlooked us, so Ma chased him down the aisle shouting: excuse me…excuse me…we haven’t paid!
While Ma’s honesty ensures private rail employees get their year-end bonus, it also means she’ll provide an honest assessment of the gifts you give her.
I’ve furnished Ma with a number of crappy gifts over the years, but two in particular stand out.
The first concerned a family saga known as Lottie-gate. Lottie was my brother’s adorable dog – may she rest in peace. Ma likes animals well enough; she’s just not keen on having them in her house – perhaps a throwback from having had children in it for so long. Anyway, this one time, my brother asked her if she’d have Lottie for the weekend: Ma said no. Simple? Hardly. Ma likes saying no as much as she likes animals in the house and getting free train rides. Added to which, Ma saying no is a big deal in these parts, especially where my brother is concerned. It’s normally: yes of course my darling boy…would you like a plate of fresh scones with that? Long story boring, it turned into a saga, became Lottie-gate and, finally, the unmentionable incident. It would’ve stayed unmentioned, were it not for the fact that it gave me a brilliant gift idea for Ma:
A lap-tray with a huge picture of Lottie on it.
Ma hated it. Indeed, I believe her exact words were: you must be joking…why would I eat my dinner on that…I’m never going to use it! True enough, it’s still in plastic in the back of the cupboard. To be honest, I was a little mystified by her reaction. I was doubled over laughing when I thought of it and my brother thought it was pretty funny too. My sister – ever on to it – knew it would be a stinker, and so it was. And, if you want to stay in Ma’s good graces, you’re better off not mentioning it.
I remained cautious in my gift giving for the next couple of years; sticking with sure winners like red wine and a novel. That is, until recently, when I had another great idea. The remit: useful and fabulous. Tada…a funky, no strain, goods collecting transporting device (aka an old lady shopping trolley)! Ma was sure to love it and might even offer to bake me a plate of scones.
No chance. She thought it was ridiculous. Her exact words were:
Ma: You must be joking (coupled with the stolen youth stare)…I’m not that old!
Me: What (genuinely confused), don’t you like it?
Ma: No. What would I want it for?
Me: You could use it to do your shopping.
Ma: I wouldn’t be seen dead with it.
Me: Well, I’ll use it then…I think it’s cool.
Ma: (Shakes head) gees, you’ll be in a home before me.
Naturally, I was disappointed. But not for long! Because I am now the proud owner of an old lady shopping trolley. It’s freaking brilliant! No more lugging huge bags of groceries home…and no more bags for that matter. It can fit a mound of stuff, is waterproof and, when you get home, you can wheel it up to the fridge and cupboards for your unpacking ease. And, of course, it looks pretty darn cool. I know this to be true because old ladies stop me in the street to admire it. I’m telling you, if you don’t have a car and are sick of lugging things around town, get yourself an old lady shopping trolley!
As for Ma’s gifts in the future? I guess I’ll be sticking to the old favourites. However, Ma keeps telling us that when the end is nigh, she’d prefer to go to Switzerland than fritter away in a nursing home. So I’m thinking a ‘Swiss Phrase Book’ for Mother’s Day.
I hope she likes it.