As a child I longed to bring my mother breakfast in bed on Mother’s Day. I imagined a little tray arranged just so, with eggs, perhaps, toast with jam, some juice and coffee. A little flower, even. But much to my continued disappointment, she had no interest in being served breakfast in bed, feeling, I suspect, that it was an overly fussy gesture for which she did not particularly care. And anyway, the truth is she wasn’t much of a breakfast eater—if and when she did eat it, she would have preferred something like cold sesame noodles over proper breakfast food, like quiche. She had no interest in conventions of this sort, in overly planned politesse.
Instead, my brothers and I showered our mother with the same gifts for all gift-giving events alike—books. And not just any books—her own books! Her own old books long since read and stored in our basement, selected by the three of us based on looks and physical reachability alone, wrapped and proudly handed over. She never tired of this custom. She understood and appreciated our gratitude for her in all its forms, all the ways she was so deeply beloved by her three children.
Though it took me years to not only accept, but also come to truly cherish my mother’s lack of need for or even interest in finicky ways of showing my appreciation for her, like fastidiously planned breakfasts in bed, the trade-off was worth more than a thousand delicate trays of eggs. She taught me to recognize and acknowledge blessings big and small, in all their many forms, delivered on both designated days and those unremarkable ones,
So perhaps it’s fitting that the last Mother’s Day gift I ever gave my mom—less than a month before her death—was as unfussy as she was. A smoothie. And yes, I delivered it to her in bed.
My brothers and I went home to be with her for the weekend, stunned by, but not fully able to understand and acknowledge how sick she really was. I had long since given up on serving her breakfast in bed on Mother’s Day—the struggle was now to get her to accept any food at all.
Smoothies seemed as good a bet as any. We paired fruit after fruit, blended them up and offered them cold or at room temperature, through a straw or a spoon, hoping the nutrients would offer her strength, rejuvenation. But again and again they were rejected. She couldn’t bring herself to take more than a sip. Desperate, I searched the kitchen for what was left, trying to create a combination that might appeal to her enough to swallow.
I found apple, ginger, date and lemon. I mixed in some ice and blended it. She took a first sip and smiled ever so slightly. Then she took a second. And then a third. “It’s delicious,” she whispered. And it was.
In the end, she didn’t finish the smoothie. She couldn’t. But I know that it eased her failing body, brought her some relief, even if it was fleeting, and that while she was drinking it she knew that she was surrounded by absolute love. It was the best gift I’d ever given her. The only one she really wanted.