Manolo says, it is Monday and you are furiously attempting to find suitable gifts for the most difficult person on your list, your mother.
What does one get for the woman whose chief entertainments seem to be working at the soup kitchen and attempting to run down pedestrians in crosswalks?
“That is a woman in a hurry,” says your husband Gary, half-admiringly, as your mother squeals tires away from your home on Saturday, “and she’s probably going to kill someone.”
But, you were not paying attention. Your mind had already begun to wrestle with the eternal problem, what to get someone who has everything, wants nothing, and is crazy.
“The perfect gift,” said Gary, “she can keep it in the saddle bags on her bike.”
But for your mother, the dangerous woman of seventy-something, such things would probably not be suitable. She has never been the great reader, picking up mystery novels, and then putting them down before the ending, often with the announcement that “I figured out who did it. No reason to finish.”
She is not possessed of great vanity or girlish charm, which would enable you to give her the perfume or the Hermés accessories. Indeed, for the past fifteen years the ladies at the Villa Charisma Hair Salon have been perming your mother’s hair into the short ‘do most favored by progressive nuns and prison matrons.
Nor is she especially sentimental. Yes, there are the obligatory photos of you and your siblings, and the various grandchildren on the walls of her home, but nothing like the shrines to family you have seen in the homes of many persons of your acquaintance.
It has always been easy to shop for your father, as he has the panoply of esoteric hobbies, such as marquetry, model railroadry, and antique car restorationry, which keep him out in his workshop and away from your mother for much of each day, and which have the bewildering number of accessories and publications suitable for giving as the gifts.
The problem is that the main occupations of your mother are charitable and religious.
She plays the organ at the church on Sundays, (famously adding modern flourishes to traditional hymns, such as the time she slipped the bar of Hoagy Carmichael into “The Old Rugged Cross”). Then she works at the Humane Society on Mondays, the local soup kitchen on Tuesdays and Saturdays, and with foster children who have aged out of the system on Fridays. She sends checks to anti-malaria organizations in Africa, prepares Christmas gift boxes for orphans in Honduras, and has been known to bring random crusty punks home for sauerkraut and kielbasa supper.
She drives like the maniac because she feels that time to do good is limited.
“You know what she’d like best,” says Gary, as you walk up the driveway together, “that we go down and help her serve Christmas dinner at that soup kitchen.”
He’s right, of course…