Mother’s Day was fast approaching, and I had seen a gift that I wished to buy for my mother. What I wished to purchase was in a gift store across from the Franklin School. That elementery school in Melrose, Massachusetts was comprised of grades three through six. I cannot remember which grade I was in, I only remember that I needed five dollars to purchase that beautiful blue glass basket. Somehow, I had to earn it or ask my father to help me come up with that exorbitant sum. Back in those days five dollars was a considerable sum of money. With five dollars you could buy five hundred pieces of penny candy, one hundred candy bars larger than the ones that are sold today,or fifty comic books. No, I needed that sum of money to obtain that glass basket for my mother. I could hardly wait for that day to come when I could go to Ethel’s gift store and take home, in secret, my present for my mom.
Now, I was fortunate to have a very affectionate mother. My mom gave you hugs very often, and her hand would often reach out and gently squeeze your hand. She would then speak the words I loved to hear, “Kenny, I love you so much.” I remember those words first spoken to me when as a pre-kindergartener she would pull on my snowsuit and tighten the hood around my face. Then with both hands on the sides of my face, she would speak of her love and send me out to play in the snow.
On Mother’s Day when she received my gift, her delight was evident. It was, of course, one of the most beautiful gifts she had ever received. For years after that day, I would see that small basket with flowers tucked in it. If you were to ask me what gift I had given to those in my life that I have loved – that blue glass basket would be high on the list. There is another gift I gave to my mother that I did not purchase; it was a gift I made.
My mother loved beautiful handkerchiefs. Some of those handkerchiefs were her mother’s, some she had purchased herself, and some that had been given to her as presents. All seven of her children knew she loved her handkerchiefs and that she always had some in her pocketbook. Sometimes, we dreaded their existence so near at hand. As well as some of her handkerchiefs being beautiful, there were some that were very plain. Let me see – if you had a runny nose as a young child a handkerchief would be found so you could blow your nose. If my mother spotted dirt behind your ears or on your cheek out in public, she would secretly take out one of those plain cloths and tell you to spit on a corner of it. That is correct – spit on it. Then she would wipe away that spot of dirt behind your ears or on your face. It was like she was using sandpaper on your skin. Suddenly, I knew the exact Mother’s Day gift to make for my mother when I was around twelve years old. I was not thinking of another gift from a gift shop, but something I could make in my father’s shop – a box for her handkerchiefs.
My father helped me order a pattern for a fretwork handkerchief box from a company in New York. The top of the box would have a white deer made from holly wood; the box itself would be of mahogany. In secret, I worked down in our cellar carefully cutting out the pattern on wood with my father’s jigsaw. I know my mother cherished that gift even more than the glass basket. That new gift was to last far longer than the blue glass basket. As a matter of fact, that gift sits on the top of my bureau right now. When my mother passed away, I asked my father if I could have the box I had made for her along with some of her handkerchiefs. My dad willingly gave me back my mother’s handkerchief box. Inside that box were some of her special handkerchiefs, but also to my surprise, some of the notes I had writen to her and my dad over the years. One of the notes had been written by me some sixteen years earlier. Little did I know my mother would keep that note.
The words were simple – I had brought her a pot of daffodils and had expressed that they were a touch of spring for my mother with love from her son.
So many times after my mother’s death, I have spoken to others about doing something thoughtful for those they love, especially mothers. How much I have regretted that I did not send my mother flowers far more often. She loved flowers and always had some in the bay window of my dad’s and her home. We would tease her that after she moved to a new community,the florist where they had lived for so long had gone out of business. We take those we love so for granted when they are with us and then how much we miss them when they are gone. I never could understand the sweet, syrupy poetry men wrote about their mothers until my mom had passed away. Suddenly, I understood their flowery, emotional poetry.
There are two lessons here. One of them is to recall the thoughtfulness of our Master Jesus Christ. He was so aware and sensitive to those around him. So many of the religious leaders thought so much of themselves that they did not see those in need of spiritual and physical nourishment. He never turned his eyes away from the needs of others. In other words, Jesus was thoughtful. He saw the man who wished to be cured by the moving waters, but no one would carry him to the water for he was crippled and unable to go there on his own power. He saw the grieving father whose son was an epileptic. He felt the hurt of a father seeing his son flail into a fire. He was aware of the woman who lost her coin, or the widow who needed help from a judge. He saw the children ignored by others and He blessed them. Jesus was KIND and THOUGHTFUL, AND WE NEED TO BE THE SAME WAY.
The other lesson is to reach out in small ways to those around us. A small gift, a note or a card, or a phone call can change a person’s outlook for many days if not weeks. During this time of the pandemic, so many people have been cut off from society. Many of our elderly, including this pastor, have led far more sheltered lives. After a time in isolation, one day becomes indistinguishable from the next. You and I can make a difference to the lonely and bring them laughter and joy with our simple act of caring.
On Sunday we will remember the person we call mom in our lives. So many people also have mothers, not perhaps biological, but a woman who has been a mother with love and caring for one not born to her. Blessed is the son or daughter who was or is raised by or who had a surrogate loving mother.
Growing up, my mother made many sacrifices for her children as did my dad, but my mother was the one who was at home and had to deal with the daily task of raising seven children. There is not a day I do not think of my mother and thank God for her love and influence in my life. Oh my, how I wish I had sent her flowers more often.
“And now, may the Lord watch between me and thee while we are absent one from the other.”
PS – I am trying something new. You can now start listening to my walks as a podcast on Spotify. Let me know what you think.