This past weekend I helped put together a trampoline for my nephews. Well technically, I watched my brothers-in-law put together a trampoline for my nephews, but I wasn’t entirely useless: my sisters and I spent the time trying to figure out what to get our mom for Mother’s Day. I also helped by doing a sweet flip once the trampoline was all together, just to test it out. My nephews were astonished, and one remarked “I didn’t know old people could do a flip.”
Children really are precious gems, aren’t they? I’m certain I had worse remarks for my mom growing up, which is part of the reason why my mom will receive a Mother’s Day present from me each year without any bickering. But it wasn’t just my mouth that got me in trouble or caused my mom emotional anguish when I was a kid. One summer, such anguish started on the edge of a trampoline. It was a trampoline down the street, in a backyard overgrown with tall grasses and weeds. My twin sister and I jumped on the trampoline with the kids from next door, a brother and sister about our age. Between games of crack the egg, I decided I would quickly pee off the edge of the trampoline, a task made difficult by my neighbor’s refusal to stop jumping. What made the task even more difficult was his sister’s curiosity about what makes boys, boys. I turned to the side and tried to walk around the circumference of the trampoline away from her, and as a result, a wobbly and wide arc of pee circumscribed the trampoline. As soon as I was finished, the game of crack the egg resumed as if nothing had happened.
Eventually, my sister and I went home, leaving our neighbors to enjoy the trampoline without us. We were watching TV when the doorbell rang. My mom answered and it was the mom from next door, holding something that must have been toxic based on how she carried it. She held it as far away from her body as possible, turning her head slightly away from it so she wouldn’t have to see or smell or sense any more of it than she had to. Her wrist was limp, and suspended from her pinched fingers a urine-soaked shoe dangled by its untied laces. “Did Alex pee on this shoe?” she asked my mom. And the answer was yes. Of course I didn’t mean to pee on his shoe. I hadn’t even seen it. It wasn’t my fault that the grass was tall, or that the neighbor currently fuming on the front step had a daughter interested in the bird and my bees. It wasn’t my mom’s fault either, but she still drove to the mall the same night to get a new pair of Adidas for the neighbor.
That’s why I know I have to get my mom something every year, even if I also know that’s she’s going to turn around and sell it. The first Mother’s Day gift I ever bought for her, a glass rabbit figurine, was one of the first things I noticed years later at the garage sell we had before moving across town. But it wasn’t just the glass bunny, it was joined by practically every gift I had ever given her. I searched the long folding table in disbelief as strangers poked through what I assumed would become priceless family heirlooms. They were less than a dollar. But I really shouldn’t have been surprised. My mom is someone who will politely open Christmas presents each year, gasping at how “cool” and “interesting” the gifts are and then stack them in a neat pile. A pile that will sit in the same place, collecting dust until she starts decorating for Christmas the next year. I know I haven’t always given the best gifts, but I developed a strategy to make sure my gifts were at least used if not also appreciated. I buy consumables that I know she’ll hate to see go to waste.
This year, I’m buying her chocolates from Taza Chocolates. Based in Boston, the company makes stone ground chocolate that comes in some fairly excellent packaging. It’s the packaging you see above. If you’ve never had stone ground chocolate before, it tends to have a slightly gritty texture and if you’ve never had Taza chocolate before, it tends to taste delicious. I’ve had two of the bars and a few of the Chocolate Mexicano Discs. My favorite is the Salted Almond which I am buying for my mom. She can make hot chocolate with this discs or I can eat them whenever I am home visiting, so it’s really a win-win situation for me. But I sincerely hope I don’t end up eating them. I hope she has a moment to herself to enjoy the flavor of the chocolate and will maybe even think back to the ups-and-downs of being a parent. Like the surface of a trampoline, it may be sometimes difficult to navigate when heavy things crowd the surface, but I hope it leaves her feeling as excited as I felt jumping on one when I was little, or even as buoyant as I felt doing a flip across one decades later.