I was in my early twenties and single. Mother’s Day had rolled around that year and I found myself broke, with no gift for my mom. Growing up, my family was poor so store-bought gifts were not something we really did. I remembered Mother’s Days from when I was a kid, handing over crafts I’d made in school to give her as gifts. One particularly nice one was a leather key chain that I punched shapes into and then painted. Others were just malformed pinch-pots painted crazy colors, hideous things. I was not yet a mother, so the beauty of those pathetic little dishes was lost on me. All I knew was there was no time to make her anything of any significance that would be worthy of Mother’s Day.
I remember it was a bright, sunny day, the perfect weather. I woke up early and decided that, even though I had my money earmarked for bills, I was going to use it to buy my mother flowers for her special day. Flowers weren’t something my mother ever got. I drove down to the florist and waited in line behind all the other procrastinators. As I stood I thought about what I’d buy her. Roses? No. I surely didn’t have enough money for those. Carnations? No. I wasn’t sure she’d like them. She lived in an apartment where she got little sun exposure so potted plants were out.
That’s when a great idea occurred to me. I’d buy her fake flowers. She wouldn’t have to commit to keeping them alive and, frugal as I was, she would be able to enjoy this gift of flowers forever. I puffed up my chest and turned to the fake flower section. I spied the most beautiful silk, pink peonies I’d ever seen. They came in a huge bundle. I kept my eyes on those peonies, worried that some other person would steal my idea and get them before me.
When my turn at the counter came, I told the clerk which flowers I wanted. She looked at me with this sad look in her eyes. I thought it must be horrible working customer service in a flower shop on Mother’s Day morning. It was very packed, customers snatching up everything that wasn’t nailed down. Her misery would end soon, I thought.
She brought me the peonies and I was dismayed to see that they came in a truly plain, bordering on ugly, green pot. To make matters worse, the pot had two big spikes on the bottom. I thought, How are these things ever going to stand up? No matter. Mom and I would fix it. We’d just pop those spikes off with a pair of pliers so they’d stand nicely on her dining table. I handed over my cash and left the store.
I drove to her place with my chest puffed up, proud that I got the most beautiful flowers for my mom and she could keep them forever. They lay on my passenger seat, unable to stand because of those darn spikes. So filled with pride was I that it never occurred to me to spend any time thinking about the significance of those spikes.
Mom buzzed me in to her complex and I rode the elevator to her floor. I spent my time waiting really observing those flowers. They truly didn’t look fake. They were very pretty and I was convinced that she would love them. As I walked down the hall to her door a sneaking feeling began to creep into my spine. My head started adding the plain green pot and the two peculiar spikes together. As I knocked on her door, I swiftly hid the flowers behind my back.
Oh, no! I thought, and burst into tears.
My mom answered the door to a runny-nosed, sobbing mess of a daughter.
“What’s wrong?” she asked.
Unable to speak, I slowly pulled the flowers from behind my back and handed them to her.
She looked at them with a confused expression.
“Are these for me?”
“Um, Miranda, you do know that these are flowers one normally places on a grave, right?”
“I do now!” I wailed.
She pulled me close and hugged me. And laughed a great belly laugh.
“I’m so sorry,” I said.
“It’s okay,” she said. “I can at least say that I got to enjoy my funeral flowers while I was still alive.” She laughed again.
I was still crying, but I giggled, too.
I went inside and explained the whole story to my mom, who did not successfully stifle one bit of laughter the whole way through. I apologized a million times, so embarrassed that I would do such a stupid thing.
Later, as I lay in bed and replayed my awful choices in my head, a thought occurred to me. My mother had always told us that we should never be attached to the material things in life because you can’t take your stuff along for the ride. I had somehow managed to prove her wrong. I gave her the gift that Mother’s Day that she really could take with her. So, top that, daughters everywhere.