She is an absolutely beautiful woman, inside and out. Five-foot-two and full of spunk. Just over forty years ago she was a much larger version of herself, all on account of yours truly. You see, she gained so much weight carrying me that the doctor was afraid it might make for a troublesome delivery. He would constantly caution her against consuming too much unhealthy food. My mother would always listen closely to his advice. Then, upon exiting the office, she would promptly hit the A&W drive-in for a burger, fries and a large chocolate milkshake.
Prenatal prevention of post-partum depression, I guess.
I was born at 3:53 pm on June 8th, 1973. Dad wasn’t around. He was busy moving the car to avoid paying a parking ticket when his time was to expire at 4pm. Mom, however, was present during the entire ordeal. When I finally came bursting forth into this world, I weighed a whopping 9 pounds and 4 ounces. Upon seeing my chubby, angelic face for the first time, my mother’s loving response was,
“See doc, I told you I wasn’t a lard ass!”
She had me at “lard ass.”
I have loved this woman my entire life. While dad has taught me the value of a job well done and the gift of storytelling, mom has taught me all about the twin joys of spontaneity and compassion. I will never be able to repay her for all she has given me.
But once a year, I try.
They call it Mother’s Day. Back in May, I was wracking my brain, trying to decide what to get the woman who gave me life. In the Year Without A Purchase, “stuff” gifts are off the table. No small kitchen appliances or home décor. I do have a stash of makeshift science experiment kits - Mentos and 2-liter bottles of Diet Coke - that we’ve been giving as gifts to the kid’s friends for birthday parties. But mom has been there and done that.
I contemplated creating some original artwork or handicraft for her, but my skills have scarcely improved since the last time I fashioned her a macaroni necklace back in the third grade. And today, I’m afraid mom would rather cook such an item as wear it. In fact, I suspect that’s what happened with the original.
Then I remembered that our YWAP rules permit us to give “experience” gifts. So I thought, “How about a nice lunch date with Mom?”
To be a suitable experience gift, we would have to go to one of Mom’s favorite places. That meant no Buffalo Wild Wings or any other establishment featuring large screens showing sports.
So, last week, I met mom at the Cottage Café.
The Cottage Café is not exactly my style. Sure, I may not be the most manly guy on the planet. My love of televised sports and mastery in the art of flatulence is far outweighed by my ability to joyously demonstrate “Jazz Hands” and my intimate knowledge of color palettes.
I’m an autumn, for those scoring at home.
But the Cottage Café may be the girliest restaurant on the face of the earth. The place makes me look like a professional wrestler. It’s covered in lace doilies and filled with scented candles and household knick-nacks. At the door, they do a quick blood screen. Those measuring high in testosterone are given a fanny pack shaped like a uterus. All the animals on the menu are given a complete facial and pedicure before becoming a key ingredient in my tiny, girl-portion-sized sandwich. Those caught talking about football are strapped to a chair Clockwork-Orange-style and forced to watch the Lifetime channel.
I’m telling you. It’s that girly. But the food is amazing and Mom loves it.
On the day of our date, I met her in the parking lot. She gave me a hug and we walked together into the restaurant. We gave our name to the hostess and waited for a table. The place was packed! I glanced around and noticed two other guys in the restaurant, but I was the only male under the age of 65. I suspect the other fellas were former electricians slowly losing their hearing. When their wives said “Cottage Café,” they heard “Wattage Delay” and came running. Now they were draped in gingham napkins eating pimento cheese crackers and wondering why no one’s asking them to fix the wiring.
But the Cottage Café’s pimento cheese will do that to a guy. They bring you a plate of it as a complimentary appetizer. It’s so good it’ll make you forget anything you were worried about before.
Kinda’ like Mom.
Once we were seated, time just stopped. You see, it had been a while since I had talked to my Mom. Sure, we get to spend time together now and again. But usually we’re surrounded by lots of other people. Or kids. Or meals to prepare. So four hours at a family party becomes only five minutes of actual contact time. The rest is spent mopping spills, filling plates, cutting food, and cleaning up.
But this was different.
It was an honest-to-goodness talk. No distractions. No agendas. Uninterrupted conversation as beautiful and sublime as uninterrupted sleep. The depth of it leaves you feeling so refreshed that you feel like you can tackle all of the world’s problems with a smile on your face.
We ate crackers while reminiscing about childhood. I picked from her salad while we discussed the issues of the day. We contemplated dessert as mom shared with me her thoughts on her future with my Dad. Where they might live. Where they might go.
And two hours passed.
I never noticed that tables turned several times as we savored our time together. People coming and going while we sat still. In some ways, it was like we were getting reacquainted. She was getting to know the man that grew from the little boy that cluttered her house for nearly twenty years. And I was getting to know the genuine, flesh-and-blood woman that lives underneath the SuperMom cape she wore during my youth.
And I think we like each other.
People say it’s hard to make new friends later in life. I say that’s a bunch of bunk. New friends are right around the corner, just waiting to be rediscovered.
So, next time you’re stressing about what to buy the woman who has everything, take her to lunch instead.
You never know who you might meet.