My father was traveling on a guys’ golf trip last week, leaving my mom on her own for a couple of days — a rarity for them, as they travel everywhere together, and travel they do, as they’re rarely in one spot for more than a week!) — and I texted her to check in at 7:32 PM:
“How is your solo night going? What movie?”
“Alarm is on…just finished dinner — in the dining room, no less. Having a glass of SB, and thinking of watching one of these: 27 Dresses, Maid of Honor, or Phantom Thread. Thoughts? Recommendations?”
In other words, my mom was in the midst of her own #SBB, and I die over the image of her sitting alone in their cavernous dining room, at their oversized, polished-wood, 12-seat table, beneath their dramatic crystal chandelier, enjoying a dinner for one with a chilled glass of sauvignon blanc (“SB”).
My mother is many things — deeply empathetic, warm, excellent at listening, lighthearted, decorous, attentive to details, genuine, organized, devout. But above all, she is dedicated to and deeply invested in her loved ones. If you were to look at her (pristinely-kept) planner, or her phone log, or her email inbox, you would quickly learn that she keeps time by attending to others: organizing our travel, ordering gifts for us, scheduling time to visit with us, sending snail mail to us, noting our travels and plans, even if she isn’t directly involved in them (“Jen and Landon in the Hamptons!” she’ll scrawl in her perfect, loopy cursive, in pencil). If we are coming home or visiting her in her Florida house, she will invariably email a week or two prior to our arrival asking what we need from the grocery — what kind of milk we take, what flavor of yogurt we like — and mapping out where we’d like to sleep and whether any new baby gear will be needed. I’ve written about this many times, but in the aftermath of giving birth to minimagpie via c-section, my mother attended to my every need, caring for me in the most humbling of ways. She folded down my bedding at night, easing me into it. She gripped my arm as I stiffly, slowly mounted the stairs, in absolute agony. She held my hand while I was weeping for reasons I did not know. She bought me milk of magnesium and pads the size of life preservers without batting an eye. She made me sandwiches and tea and encouraged me to shower and nap while she tended to mini. She sat at the foot of my bed on a patterned x-bench for countless hours, cooing over the two generations of women in front of her. At one point, I asked her if she could pick up my underwear from the ground because I was too sore to pick it up myself. I was embarrassed that I couldn’t take care of such intimate tasks on my own, and I told her so — and thanked her.
“Oh, honey,” she said. “My pleasure. My privilege.”
My privilege. My privilege!
When I was very young — maybe six or seven — I got in trouble for doing something, which was, to be honest, a rarity; I was a quiet, well-behaved girl. My mother scolded me, her voice uncharacteristically forbidding. I was crestfallen to have disappointed her and burst into tears.
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry — I hate myself!” I cried, theatrically.
“What did you say?!” she cried, her eyes wide, her expression shifting instantly from stern reprimand to concerned disbelief. She walked over to me and took my hands in hers. “Don’t say that about my best friend. Don’t you say that ever again.”
I was astonished — a little afraid even — to have elicited such a dramatic response. I remember turning it over in my mind for many weeks after, scrutinizing both the severity of the phrase “I hate myself,” which had suddenly surpassed “butt” and “poop” on my infantile “bad word list,” and wallowing in the discovery that I was “her best friend.” Me! Six-year-old me! I was my mom’s best friend. The realization gave me a warm sense of confidence, maturity, belonging. And I marvel now, as a mother myself, at the tremendous and delicate care my mother took with me in this and so many other instances — and so naturally, unthinkingly. How did she know just the right thing to say to show me her incredible devotion, to warn me against self-abnegation? And without rehearsal? I worry that I will say the wrong thing in such moments, or know what to say only after mulling it over on my own for a few days. (“Remember when you said that thing about hating yourself? Well, I’ve given it some thought, and…”)
But what I mean to say is this: to me, my mom is the image of the Madonna, her head bent in motherly attention to her infant child, her face arranged in solicitous serenity.
And so — catching her on her own those couple of days last week was a rarity. So bizarre to see her on her own, without a child or husband or grandchild cloying for her attention — to see her indulging in some much-needed self-care.
For those reasons, this mother’s day, I would love to give the moms in my life the gift of self-indulgence. Below, my top picks, as you still have time to order before the big event! — but before that — an idea:
Many years ago, I ordered a pair of “brand new in box” Manolo Blahnik heels from eBay, and they came with a hand-written card from the seller that read: “Go dancing in these!” I loved that — the power of suggestion! I can’t look at those heels without smiling and thinking about dancing. The same goes for any of the gifts below, which might go even further if accompanied with a thoughtful self-care suggestion (i.e., “take an evening to try this mask with a glass of wine” or “light this candle, turn off your phone, and spend an afternoon reading!”. (And if you need some elegant new stationery, I love this set — or these gift enclosure cards.)
Les Best Mother’s Day Gifts.
Click items below, or see details (and notes on each pick, as well as a couple of other items!) below:
A luxe beauty product. I’m buying my mom Ole Henriksen’s truth serum (and here’s why) and some of my other absolute favorite beauty products.
A Kindle and a Kindle gift card, possibly with a list of books worth reading. There is absolutely nothing more glorious than the handful of times I have closed my laptop an hour before our nanny leaves, walked to the wine bar around the corner, and sat with my Kindle for a solo hour of escape.
A dramatic sunhat — with a note encouraging her to take a nice long walk or spend time at the pool or beach if they’re accessible to her.
A high-end candle and pretty matches. This might seem impersonal at first blush, but my mother and Mr. Magpie have both gifted me candles for various occasions, and they are such a treat. Who wants to spend $60 on a candle? No one. But when it’s a gift…? Yes pls.
A Kayu mini tote. I have one of these and I adore it — it’s the perfect size for an evening out, as it fits sunglasses, a wallet, lipstick, keys, and a phone. I might add: “Ditch the diaper bag and go out for a drink on me!”
Finally, and these are idiosyncratic to my interests/tastes, but here are the items at the top of my personal lust list:
+New bedding from Hill House Home. Bedding can be super personal, but if you know your mom really well…or maybe just a pair of monogrammed pillowcases? Ugh, love.
+The Mother book I talked about here — and any of the mommy and me looks in there!
+A pair of these Outdoor Voices dipped leggings!!!
+Separately, and this is not really about self-care at all, I would love to receive a framed silhouette of minimagpie!
P.P.S. More on my wonderful parents here.