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This Mother’s Day-gifts of the best kind

May 5, 2010
Traer Star-Clipper


Jill Pertler

Mother's Day will be different this year.

Oh, I'll be the recipient of the usual. I may get a clay pencil holder or a handprint with a poem about how little fingers don't stay little forever. Perhaps someone will come home carrying a Styrofoam cup filled with dirt and marigold seeds. All of these make welcome gifts.

Of course there will be homemade cards; they're the best kind. Any mother will tell you so.

Some things about Mother's Day this year will be most welcomingly status quo: sticky kisses and maybe (if I'm lucky) breakfast Pop Tarts and lemonade in bed.

The other half of Mother's Day the giving half will be significantly changed.

This will be my first holiday with no mom to hug and no gifts to give.

Almost every mother I know loves giving more than receiving. The trait seems to develop sometime between the first diaper change and baby's first steps. As a result, when it comes to gifts, moms are more comfortable wrapping than unwrapping.

My mom was no exception. She showered us with gifts of the most obvious kind. Our house at Christmas? Overwhelming doesn't even begin to describe the scene. But, there are gifts more important than the ones decked out in Santa paper sitting under a decorated tree. My mom delivered them all year long.

She was one of the most talented and creative people I've ever known and she loved sharing her creativity with others. When I was a little girl, I believed she could do anything. As an adult, I was convinced of it.

From recovering furniture, wallpapering the bathroom and sewing all our clothes, my mom created something from nothing at first out of necessity; later because that was how she did things.

She possessed a mastery with yarn, making intricate doilies and knitting sweaters complete with our names monogrammed into the cloth.

No one is born knowing how to create a doily. Crochet is something you have to learn stitch by painstaking stitch. Many people never understand this concept. They say things like, "No one taught me how to sew," or "I never learned to knit."

My mom's vocabulary contained none of these phrases. Her can-do attitude taught me lessons just as important as her instructions about loading yarn onto a knitting needle.

As Alzheimer's disease tightened its grip, she tackled simpler projects. In her final days, my mom's gifts came in the form of some of the most valuable lessons yet.

Toward the end, she only knit small square washcloths. The corners on the little cloths grew rounder and less square. The once-straight sides weren't so straight anymore. Sometimes, she thought she'd made a mistake and she'd unravel the whole piece and start over. Even though her handiwork was clearly growing more difficult, my mom kept going. Quitting was not an option.

While the shape of her washcloths became more irregular, the pride my mom took in them remained intact. Whenever I visited, one of the first things she'd do is show me her latest work. The newest additions may not have been completely square, but they were neatly pressed and stacked on her bed piles and piles of washcloths.

She'd display her collection and make a declaration, "You can pick (she'd pause here) two!"

I'd agonize over the choice. How can you pick two from a treasure of dozens? Usually, she'd let me out with at least three. Generosity another lesson in my mom's curriculum.

I like to think she taught us well. When she passed away, we wondered what to do with all those washcloths. We thought of the funeral, and the friends and family who would see them for the treasures they were; we remembered how much my mom loved giving gifts. Nearly 100 washcloths were distributed that day. I hope everyone who took one is washing dishes with it this Mother's Day. Those precious cloths were made to be used. I'm sure my mom would attest to that.

Practicality there's another gift to add to the list.

Thanks, mom. Miss you.

Jill Pertler is a syndicated columnist and award winning freelance writer working with graphic designer Nikki Willgohs to provide writing and design and other marketing services to businesses and individuals. You can check out their Web site at or e-mail Jill at



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