Mom, the Obscure.

Mother’s Day is coming.  And the blitz is on.


My inbox is crammed with gift guides.  These high-end hawkers must know what they’re talking about. Right? All that big-data firepower aimed at just one demographic, for just one Sunday in May?  Surely we can learn something deeply insightful here about women and desire.

So what do mothers want?

1.  We want pink purses.  Large or small.  Shell or fuchsia.  We want them to cost at least $1500, though if someone wants to spend up to $3000 and more, we’ll just have to accept that extra tribute to our mothering excellence.

2.  We want heavy gold bracelets that look like bridle bits. Here too, there’s room for variation, and our donors can use their own judgment, if they dare. Gucci recommends one for $7600.  True, that’s a lot of filial love, but then Gucci’s proposed pink purse only costs $1100. So there’s that.

3.  We want candles.  This one surprised me.  I myself love candles on cakes and dinner tables, and every once in a while I’ll light one in the kitchen if I sautéed onions without the hood fan on.  But it turns out the demographic mother can’t get enough candles in scents of, say, tobacco and tiger.  There’s even a candle that claims to smell like a particular hipster neighborhood here in Nashville. Yes! A neighborhood scented candle! I just didn’t realize I yearned for that.

4.  We want lipstick.   Boy, do we want lipstick!  Obviously, pink is mandatory. Though I admire the aspirational genius behind “Jungle Queen” lipstick: “one killer accessory.”  Say no more.

These aren’t all, of course.  There’s also scarves and flowers.  Books about flowers.  Books about famous women who grew and/or arranged flowers.  A cocktail shaker made out of a Mason Jar.  Jewelry galore.  All completely lovely, and they’d all be unwrapped with joy on the big day.

Still,  I offer a modest alternative.  How about a Mother’s Day tribute that really captures what’s true about mothering, when you dig deep into it.  Not the rosy pink, scrubbed surface we might aim for.  But the authentic, grubby grist of real family life?  All those days we spend negotiating the gap — sometimes narrow, sometimes cavernous — between the mother we aspire to be, for the family we aspire to have, and the mother we end up being, for the family we actually have.

So this year, I propose we celebrate how ludicrous the whole enterprise of family can be. For this, I recommend the master:

Enjoy.  And happy Mother’s Day.