I stumbled across this artwork while building an ad for Mother’s Day. The woman in the artwork bears a resemblance to my mother in her younger years, and it reminded me of a mother’s day when I was around 9 years old.

I had some cash to burn at that young age – $3 to be exact, and I meant to spend every dime of it on my mom. It was the Saturday before Mother’s Day, and after breakfast I got ready, pocketed my three bucks, hopped on my bike and began to pedal into town.

This in itself is worthy of pause. I’m only 9 years old and I am off on an unsupervised shopping excursion on my own. My kids are 16 & 10 and have NEVER been shopping on their own, partly because we live in the freakin’ boonies and I have to drive them everywhere. But even if we lived around the corner from the mall, I’m such a nervous Nellie of a mom that I would probably still insist on accompanying them if they needed to pick up a thing or two.

But that fine May weekend back in the mid 70’s I had to be my own task-master. Dad could not be relied upon to help me get a Mother’s Day gift – he had better things to do on his Saturday. There were nuts and bolts to organize or a leaky pipe to fix. And I couldn’t ask mom to take me…this was a top secret mission to find her the perfect gift!

I can remember that bike ride into town. The air was warm and sunny, and heavy with the smell of things blooming. You know that green smell the earth gets on a warm spring morning? It was glorious, and I happily peddled down Broad Avenue into the heart of town. I cannot recall if I shopped in any of the other stores in town. Perhaps I poked around the Variety Store and Betty Lou’s in search of a little something and came up empty. I just know I wound up at the florist that was housed in the small row of stores right in front of my elementary school.

I selected the best bouquet of flowers that my $3 could buy, had them wrapped up in pretty paper and cellophane, carefully laid them in the basket of my bike, and gleefully headed home. I imagined the look on my mother’s face as I presented her with this magnificent floral arrangement the following morning.

When I got home, I stealthily crept up to my bedroom with my precious bouquet and looked for a good hiding place. I decided a great spot was the cabinet under my desk. Mom had no reason to look there during the next 16 hours or so, and I sat on my bed pleased and proud.

When Mother’s Day morning arrived, we kids made the required breakfast in bed, which usually consisted of over-cooked scrambled eggs laced with half a bottle of dried onion flakes and a cup of Sanka. I could hardly wait to give her my gift, and when the time was right I ran to my room to get the lovingly selected bundle of flowers. Upon opening the cabinet doors, my heart sank.

The flowers were all shriveled and limp. While I’d stored them in the cabinet, I neglected to put them in any water, so they basically withered into a very sorry bunch of droopy daisies. I was crushed.

I walked down the stairs and tearfully handed the worthless bundle to my mother, exclaiming that I had bought them the day before and thought they would last. She looked at them and exclaimed “Oh, Tracy…” with true disappointment. However, she wasn’t disappointed that her flowers were spoiled, but more that my act of giving them to her was spoiled. She immediately knew what the gesture had meant to me and was so very sorry that it had not turned out as I had planned. It’s one of the things that made my mom great.

Out of the 29 Mother’s Days I had with my mom, the wilted flower ordeal is the only one stuck in my memory. We usually remember truly joyous occasions, but I think we remember the ones where we experienced true disappointment just as much.

I can recall having to stay home sick the morning my kindergarten class was having a pancake breakfast. I remember missing my girlfriend Renee’s birthday party because I plumb forgot. Hell I even remember begging my mom to let us play in the playground at the drive-in movie, and her finally giving in and saying yes, and our sprinting to the playground gates only to have a man stop us and say, “Sorry kids, it’s closed.”

Yes, the bummer moments remain fresh in my brain to this day. And all it takes is a sunny, warm May morning and a whiff of green, and I’m back in the 1970’s with a flowers in my bike basket.

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