Back in 1960, I was 9 years old. My father had been deceased since I was 4, and my mom had the daunting task of raising 4 kids by herself. I was the youngest of those 4 and as Mother’s Day approached, we kids had a meeting to determine what we were going to get mom for Mother’s Day. Naturally with times being hard and us just making it by, I didn’t get an allowance to plan on any gifts for anyone. So I had to come up with a plan quickly or otherwise, I would be left out in the Mother’s Day celebration of giving mom a gift on her special day.
Back then, a person could sell Coke bottles (it could have been a Pepsi, Dr. Pepper, or any soft-drink bottle, we in Texas just called all bottles “Coke” bottles), so my plan was to gather enough Coke bottles to purchase a gift for mom on Mother’s Day. I would ride my bike all day in the small town of Sweetwater Texas, putting bottles in grocery sacks to cart to the store to sell back. I worked all the way up until the Saturday before Mother’s Day and at that point, took my cash to Woolworth’s to see what I could purchase.
I never gave it a second thought about buying her a nice gift for Mother’s Day. I just thought it was something we kids were supposed to do. She worked for us as a waitress at a hamburger café in town, so I just assumed this was the right thing to do, to do something for her. She must have been pretty good at working at managing a budget, because I never knew we were poor. I was always playing baseball, so I never thought too much about money anyways. Thinking about money back then was boring. But I did learn valuable lessons by watching my mom and seeing her go to work every day.
In to Woolworth’s I went, feeling like I could buy anything in the store. I looked at perfume but had no idea what was good. Besides, perfume wouldn’t last. I wanted something that would last forever. I thought about kitchen utensils and how much that would make my mom happy if she had something new to cook with. Thank goodness I didn’t decide on that. And then I went to a section of the store that had a bunch of what I called “whatnots.” Little ornament looking things.
And there they were. The 2 cardinal birds that were sitting on a branch looked very interesting to me. They would look great in mom’s bedroom on her night stand. I paid the money and took the cardinals home. I couldn’t wait until tomorrow and I imagined how happy mom would be to get the cardinals.
And so came Sunday and Mother’s Day. We went to church and came home quickly and we served mom lunch and really made a big deal of treating her extra special today. And when it came time for her to open her gifts, we all rushed to give her our individual gifts. I was nervous hoping she would like what I had bought her. She opened my gift and she was surprised and smiling. She liked the cardinals and she really bragged about how special it was that I had gotten them for her. My chest was swollen with pride. And there after, every time someone would come over to visit, mom would make a huge deal about what I had gotten her for Mother’s Day. I was so thankful she appreciated and liked the cardinals so much.
That gift was such a hit, that the following mother’s Day, I got her a card with two cardinals on it, and the year after, another card with cardinals on it. It became a tradition then, that every year I would get mom something with cardinals on it for Mom’s Day. Every Mother’s Day she would tell the story of that Mothers Day back in 1960. It was such a tradition between her and me. It was our way of saying “I love you” to each other.
It meant so much to me to be able to have done that for her all of those years. One year, I actually found a 4 foot card with cardinals on it. We laughed and laughed about it for many years.
My dear mother passed away 6 years ago. The funeral was in the panhandle of Texas and a long way from Fort Worth. I had never dreaded going to a funeral so much in my life. I suppose it was a 6 or 7 hour drive. Plenty of time to be remorseful. Especially since I went by myself. The funeral was sad, but yet I knew my mom was in a better place with no pain now. The drive home seemed like it took twice as long as it did to get there. The many memories of my dear mother flooded on me as I drove home from west Texas. I thought about our lifetimes together. I thought about how much she did for us kids. The unselfishness, the pride in her kids. All of what a mother gives to her kids.
I got home just before sunset. I was tired. I was beat. I was sad.
My friend Kristi was there to offer me a glass of tea as I drove up the driveway and got out of my truck. It felt good to finally get home if that were possible. It was difficult for me to imagine being so alone now. I had so many emotions at that moment that I went in to the house. I was tired, but I needed to get outside again, so I walked out to the sundeck in the back. I closed the sliding glass door and turned around, and to my surprise, there in the yard, were about 50 cardinals! I absolutely could not believe what I was seeing. The cardinals were in no rush to fly off. I was spell bound by what I was seeing. It was as if my mom had sent them as a code to me that she was doing just fine. I think about that moment now and have to fight to hold back the tears. My mom. Bless her heart. We were still communicating.