A sundress for Mother’s Day | Home Again

By Joanne Peterson | May 18, 2018

Mother’s Day was one of my favorite days when I was a child. My brother Warren and I sometimes brought home oddly shaped clay gifts we made at school. (Ashtrays? Bird nests? Spoon rests?) to present to our mother and to our grandmother, who lived with us.

We already knew they would fuss over our handmade gifts, just as mothers and grandmothers today fuss over painted rocks and sunflower seedlings sprouting in paper cups.

For years, my brother and I created handmade cards, though neither of us had particular gifts for design. Mine tended to feature brightly crayoned letters on the front: “Happy Mother’s Day to the Best Mama Ever.”

Inside, I would sometimes tuck a carefully printed note saying, “I will help you weed your flowers for two hours next week,” or “I will bake you a chocolate cake, if Grandma helps.” Once in a while, I’d include one of my early poems – when I was a child, my poetry rhymed.

When we were kids, my brother owned a kit of small rubber alphabet stamps, letters lined up in their box in neat rows, multiples of A to Z, with a black-inked stamp pad. Although it took an inordinately long time to press each small letter into a tiny blank wooden stamp frame, Warren would work until he had “Happy Mother’s Day” spelled out with the little rubber letters.

Eventually, he would be ready to stamp his small message onto folded construction paper. The little black letters stamped on the front said just what he meant, so he stamped the same thing on the inside and signed it.

One mild, early May Sunday afternoon, when I was probably 9 or 10, my dad and I sat on the back steps of our big old house at Fourth and Dayton, sharing the Times. After reading the comics, I idly leafed through another section and saw an eye-catching full-page Seattle Bon Marche mail-order ad with sketches of Mother’s Day gifts: perfume, linen jacket, charm bracelet, nylon stockings – and the one absolutely perfect item that I knew I must get for my mother.

Within moments, I convinced my dad that we must order the gray-and-white-striped cotton sundress with red raspberries randomly printed on the fabric, and ruffles at the shoulders. It sounds fairly awful, now that I think about it, but my father helped me choose a size and fill out the order form.

I began watching daily for the mailman. When the package arrived, I spirited it into my room to gift wrap. On Mother’s Day, my mom smiled when she opened my gift – no matter what she was thinking! – and wore the dress for several summers, on the warmest days.

One Mother’s Day, years later, I bought my mother a light brown apron with two dark brown printed smudgy handprints at the top, with words in childlike printing: “I need Chocolate!” I’ve kept that apron, and when I wear it, I feel my mom as close as a hug.

This year I did not go to West Seattle for Mother’s Day with my daughter Lisa. My young grandson woke up ill, with what turned out to be strep throat, so I canceled plans to go to my daughter’s home. I missed seeing her and her family, but I wasn’t sorry to miss the traffic, with the assurance of closed northbound I-5 lanes for the trip home.

We’ll have a late Mother’s Day time together.

Among other sweet things my son Brad and daughter-in-law Debbie, in Idaho, did for me for Mother’s Day was my son’s call to the Edmonds Bookshop. He ordered a gift card, which awaits me at the store. He appreciated the friendly, helpful manner of the employee who assisted him and wants to visit the Edmonds Bookshop next time he visits me.

That gift was a double treat from a reader to a reader – a book for his mom to choose and support for a business in her hometown.


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