The top ten free-but-priceless gifts Mom wants:
- Your room, clean. Really clean. Nothing shoved into closets, crammed into bureau drawers or pushed under the bed. She wants your socks matched, your broken items tossed out, your unwanted books donated to the public library, your out-of-style or too-small clothes carted off to the nearest goodwill store. She wants all this done because this is what she'd do herself. You want to make her really happy? Three little words - not "I love you" but "Clean your room."
- An empty and shining kitchen sink. Unlike Mother Hubbard's cupboard, this baby never seems bare in the average kitchen. Mom usually finds anything from a single sticky spoon (tossed in after a midnight freezer raid/ice cream binge) to a pile of teetering breakfast dishes left by family members too rushed to rinse them, let alone place them in the dishwasher. Imagine the joy she'll feel when she sees her face reflected in the kitchen sink.
- The car, washed, with an interior that's showroom-neat. The inside is the most important part. She's too busy driving you here and there to vacuum the carpets; dig out straw wrappers, pennies, and food crumbs in the seat cushions; liberate paper coffee cups trapped under the seat; or shine those windows so they're head-bangingly transparent in their sparkling purity. Shoot some high-end room spray into the ceiling and seats, and make her think she's driving around in a spa. Don't forget the trunk and glove compartment!
- The little things taken care of. Every houseplant watered, garbage basket emptied, library book or video store DVD returned, grocery item purchased from the shopping list, towel and sheet folded and put away, shirt ironed, loose button sewed onÃ¢â‚¬Â¦you get the drift. All those little niggling tasks that moms have to keep up with are a source of low-level but constant stress. Wipe them out for just one day and their absence will cause those little wrinkles of concern to smooth away from Mom's face faster than a Botox injection.
- A meal prepared for her just the way she likes it. Keep in mind her eating habits, calorie and nutrition concerns, and preferences. Mom has chowed down on your cholesterol-raising butter and syrup-laden French toast, your sticky birthday cakes covered with frosting so fattening it could fuel a third world country for a week. She would like a fresh tossed salad with a million cut-up goodies that you'd find at a well-stocked salad bar - the kind she wouldn't have the time to make for herself, but that she'd order in a restaurant. Or maybe some carefully seasoned and perfectly broiled fish - a nice fresh catch of the day straight from the fish market. And if you feel compelled to make dessert, how about angel food cake, lowfat vanilla yogurt, and fresh strawberries?
- A day when she doesn't have to drive you anywhere - better yet, a week if you can manage it. Mom may chauffeur you with a smile, but it is seriously draining to spend hours behind the wheel, waiting for you at school, the mall, dance or music lessons, team practice, a friend's house, or a late-night party. A character in the movie "Repo Man" said it best: "The more you drive, the less intelligent you get." Help Mom keep her sanity and her brain cells intact just for one day.
- A spa treatment with you providing the service. A back massage, a manicure and/or pedicure, a facial, a foot massage, aromatherapy - the options are endless. Read a book on what to do - go to a salon and observe trained professionals. Bring that home with you and lavish that attention on Mom. She'd feel guilty if you tried to buy these services for her, but if you do them yourself with materials you can purchase inexpensively - or find already lying around the house - then she'd feel doubly relaxed. And in the midst of all that pampering, she's more likely to say yes if you've got something you need to tell her, be it good news or bad.
- A haircut - for you, not her. Mom wants to see your beautiful face! She doesn't want your hair hanging down and hiding the features she knows and loves so well. Just once, take a moment to get well-groomed so she can see past the fuzz and remember the sweet-cheeked baby she used to cuddle, or the clean-faced kid that used to bring her wildflowers and pictures saying "I heart you MOM!"
- A chance to play a slow-paced board game so you can talk and enjoy each other's company. Scrabble is a great choice. Mom just wants to spend some quality time with you, and though you may be too old for family game night, you're never too old to play Scrabble with Mom.
- Something you've made for her by hand. Yeah, you think you've outgrown this. But really, you haven't - you just haven't done it in a while. Get over your embarrassment and just draw her a picture, write her a poem, scribble down a page of your favorite memories of times spent with her. There isn't a mom in the world who doesn't keep a stash of these things. As you grow up you're less likely to do this - thus any efforts are more valuable to her. This may be the most important gift of all. Because when you're grown up and no longer call her house home, it won't be the items you bought that will sustain her and give her comfort. It'll be the moments you've shared, the memories she carries, and the love you've shown that will matter.
Tangible gifts you buy in the store are fine, but when you give from the heart, she'll never ask for a return receipt.