Holiday Gifting 2021(Part 2): Give the Gift of Memories

Give the gift of memories.

Who doesn’t love nostalgia? Just last night, our daughter sat on our bed with us as we shuffled through lots of old photos. We showed her photos from our wedding. She laughed at photos from when we were dating. She really laughed at old hairstyles from the 1970s and 80s. She couldn’t believe how much she favors me in some ways and how much she favors my husband in other ways. We showed her photos of family members…grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins. And she really loved looking through pictures from her own childhood. We did all this while she was wearing my old Zaxby’s Chickenflage tshirt, a silly shirt I ordered when Zaxby’s was doing a funny promotion. It made me laugh at the time, but she loves the tshirt and didn’t even realize it was “chickenflage” (lots of little chicken shapes) instead of regular camouflage till I pointed it out to her.

Nostalgia isn’t just about photos. It’s also about objects. There are objects that remind us of different events in our lives or places we have visited. Because of that, it can be fun to put together a gift of memories for someone we love. Here are some ideas:

  • T-shirts. I love tshirts and hoodies. I have a collection of tshirts that has my dresser bursting at the seams, and I have a collection of hoodies that has taken over my closet and part of the guest closet in our house. Last year, I came up with the idea of giving my husband tshirts from places we have visited together. I had to do some eBay shopping, and in some cases, I had to contact retailers in different cities or resorts, but I did it. I boxed up t-shirts from different Caribbean islands we have visited together. I added a t-shirt from an Eagles concert we attended several years ago…and a Sade concert tshirt too. I ordered tshirts from bars we’ve visited in different parts of the country. I ended up with a total of ten or twelve tshirts, and I wrapped them all together in one big box. When he opened the box, he seemed a little confused, but then he realized he was looking at memories, and he loved it! I have to admit I was pretty proud of myself for that one.
  • Objects. It’s no secret that our daughter and I have a favorite hotel we like to visit in the Los Angeles area. A few years ago, a book was published documenting the 100-year history of the area around the hotel. Featured on the cover? A beautiful photo of our favorite hotel. And inside? Lots of information about the history of the hotel and its various guests over the years. My husband knew how much I would love it, so he ordered it for me and gave it to me for Christmas. I was absolutely thrilled! But someone could give me a coffee mug, a beach towel, or a sweatshirt from the hotel we love so much, and I would be thrilled with that too! If you know someone who has a favorite hotel or resort, call the property gift shop! They might be able to make your shopping easy with a bathrobe, book, holiday ornament, or another trinket that represents the hotel/resort.
  • Painting. You don’t always have to commission a painting to bring back memories. I once stumbled upon a painting of the Fairhope Pier in a thrift store in Charlotte. I purchased it and gave it to my mother as a holiday gift. It cost me $5, but it was worth a lot more than that to her! It brought back memories of days long ago when we spent afternoons on the pier. Additionally, for many Christmases, I gave mother a “painting” of her grandchildren. I would take a photo and use an app to make it look like a painting, and then send it to canvasondemand.com to have it printed on canvas and framed. She always loved them! See canvasondemand.com here.
  • Photo book. Who doesn’t love looking at old photos or photos from a fun year or vacation? Shutterfly has been one of my very favorite websites for years. I have stored thousands of photos on the Shutterfly website since our daughter was born eighteen years ago. We have ordered our holiday cards from Shutterfly every year, and I have lots of photobooks from Shutterfly…documenting vacations, birthdays, years, special events, and more. We have given them as gifts to friends and family, and every time, those gifts are well-received. See Shutterfly.com’s photobook options here.
  • Stoney Clover Locations Patches. I have a duffle bag I purchased at one of my very favorite resorts a few years ago. At the time, I thought my daughter would look at me like I was crazy after I purchased it, but she loved it! I haven’t let her claim it as her own, but this year, I’m giving her one like it for Christmas. Through Stoney Clover Lane, I have ordered a duffle bag, and I’m going to adorn it with destination patches from the website too. I will start with places she has visited, and I can add more later when she visits different places. I think it will be a big hit! The patches can also be used on jackets or makeup bags, and all of their patches are not travel related. There are patches for all kinds of interests! See Stoney Clover Lane’s offerings here.
  • Memory Keychain. I stumbled upon these at Etsy accidentally, but I love the ideas! The first one I came across is a photofilm keychain. At $18.99 plus shipping, it’s a great price point for a memory gift! It looks like a roll of film/negatives that can be extended to show multiple photos. You can see it here. Another one I found looks like a viewfinder you might purchase at an amusement park, and it might contain a photo of you at the scariest part of the rollercoaster. But this one holds whatever photo you pick! You can see it here.
  • Other photo gifts. In fact, Shutterfly.com offers lots of photo gift ideas, from blankets to coffee mugs to totebags and personalized water bottles. A few years after our daughter was born, Shutterfly moved their headquarters to the Charlotte area, and my husband joked that it was to save money on shipping things to our house. At the time, I had to be one of their best customers. I was always purchasing photos and gifts to send family in faraway places. To see their gift offerings, check out the shutterfly website here.

Who doesn’t love a good memory? And chances are, you can find a memory gift that’s not stuck on a cargo ship off the coast of California. Happy shopping!

Eighteen Years Ago

Eighteen years ago.

Eighteen years ago, I was in the hospital, awaiting the birth of our one and only daughter. Her original due date was October 11, and I loved the thought of 10/11 as a birthday, because right out of college, I was a flight attendant for a while, and one of my favorite planes was the L-1011. It sounded like the perfect birthday to me. And honestly, October 10 sounded good too…10/10. It’s also former NFL quarterback Brett Favre’s birthday. Don’t ask me how I know that, because I don’t know how I know…I just do. I have been a football fan all my life, and he is one of my favorite quarterbacks. (Joe Namath is my absolute favorite.) So sharing a birthday with Brett Favre was pretty cool. Obviously, neither of those worked out.

Three weeks before she was born, my husband and I went out to dinner at a local restaurant. We were discussing how we had no idea what day our baby would actually arrive when the waiter delivered our appetizer to the table. As he placed the plates in front of us, I noticed he had October 12 written on his hand. As he walked away, I said to my husband, “Do you think that was a sign? He had October 12 written on his hand.” We had a good laugh. Little did we know then…

She was born on a Sunday night at 10:31pm…after I had been admitted on Friday at 7:00pm to be induced. Don’t do the math. It’s frightening. There had been a doctor checking on me for two nights, but when the next doctor arrived on Sunday night, he was ready for our daughter to be born. He knew I was exhausted and offered to do a C-section, but I said, “We could have done that yesterday. If you think she’ll be born before midnight, let’s just get this done.” And we proceeded without the C-section.

Our baby girl was a beautiful baby with a head full of dark hair. She weighed 7 pounds, 7.7 ounces, which they officially rounded up to seven pounds, eight ounces. I should have known something about her personality when we got her home. She would not sleep. She would not be quiet.

Some things never change. She has never been a sleeper. She is always busy. She is always on the go. She simply doesn’t sit still. It wore me out when she was an infant and a toddler, but after that, I took full advantage of it. When she was two, we never stayed home anymore. During the summer, we went to a local amusement park almost every day. It was somewhere we were both happy, because we were outside and interacting with other people. I had (and still have) great friends with kids the same age, so we all got together almost every day. And we traveled. I would throw her in an umbrella stroller, strap a carseat on my back, throw my carry-on into the basket underneath the stroller, and get on planes to visit family or just go somewhere. I remember pushing her through the airport with a car seat strapped on my back and hearing people say, “You go, girl!” Or one said, “Wow! You are a real woman!” I got things done. I wanted to travel, and my husband didn’t always want to go with us, so I just made it happen.

And that has never stopped. I learned a long time ago that if she got fussy as I was dragging her all over the country, all I had to do was throw some food down her throat, and she could keep moving with me. Now, she’s two or three inches taller than I am and in way better shape than I’m in, so I have to keep up with her when we travel! I try to make sure we make as many travel memories as we possibly can before she goes off to college next year, because I know she won’t want to go with me so much anymore. And that’s OK. I want her to be independent.

The way I see it, we have 42 more weekends before we drop her off at college next fall. We have another Thanksgiving week, Christmas holidays, one more spring break, and a summer before she flies the coop. If I subtract some of those weekends for things she wants to do without us, we’re down to about 36 or 38. Sounds crazy that I’ve counted, but I want to make sure we take full advantage of this time. I’ve planned a little trip for Thanksgiving, and she and I are doing a spring break with her classmates. I haven’t figured out what we are doing over Christmas break yet, but I’m working on it.

She is eighteen today. As of today, I no longer have access to her medical records without her permission. (I need to get her to get a notarized HIPAA form done, so if she gets sick and lands in the hospital, I can get information.) That baby who could do nothing for herself now does most everything for herself. She is eighteen, so she can even leave the country without my permission…alone, if she wants. Of course, she would need money from us, so I doubt that will happen without our knowledge. She even said to me recently, “As soon as I turn 18, I’m taking Life 360 [an app] off my phone.” I replied, “That’s fine! You’ll need to buy a phone, though, because your daddy and I actually own that one, and we want Life 360 on it. Oh, and you’ll need to buy yourself a car, because without Life 360, you’re not driving the one we own.” We had a good laugh!

I can’t believe it. We have come a long way! I remember when she turned one, I thought, “Wow. I survived a whole year with a baby.” It wasn’t easy. Lots of folks thought I was a lunatic, because they all had sleeping babies. Some of them later actually had babies who ran and jumped and climbed and dodged like mine did, and then they had a new appreciation for what I was dealing with. Yes, she nearly killed me that first year, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. That first year seemed crazy long, but the next seventeen seem to have passed in a flash!

Eighteen! How did that happen so fast?!?!

Compliments? From a Teenage Daughter?

Compliments? From a teenage daughter?

In March, I took my daughter and a couple of friends to Miami for Spring Break. They were juniors in high school, and they were thrilled to get to go somewhere fun after all the COVID vacation cancellations. I didn’t require them to spend lots of time with me, but I did require them to go to dinner with me. Other than that, they had free time in the resort and on the beach.

On the third night, we all got dressed for dinner. I got dressed in my room, and they all got dressed in the room they shared. When it was almost time to call for an Uber, I emerged from my room, dressed and ready to go. And it was then that I heard words from my daughter that I rarely hear, “Wow! You look so fashionable!” The dress I was wearing was a cute, leopard-print number with a v-neck and bell sleeves. I thought it was cute, but I was surprised to hear she thought so too!

Go ahead and laugh. If you’re a mom of a teenager, you know those fashion compliments are rare. No matter what we wear, it’s a “mom” outfit. Many times, I’ve worn something and asked her if I look OK. I remember one time in particular last summer when we were in California. I asked her, “Does this look OK?” We were about to leave for dinner. She looked at my dress and said, “Yes! You look so cute! I mean, I wouldn’t wear that dress, but it’s great for a mom!” I had to laugh out loud. And honestly, I took that compliment for what it was and ran with it. You know why? Because I am a mom. I am a 54-yr-old mom of a teenager, and I don’t think I’m supposed to dress like her. I’m supposed to wear clothes that are a little more “mature” than the clothes my 18-yr-old daughter wears. And trust me when I say America wants me to wear clothes that are more mature than the ones she wears!

We are going out to dinner with some friends tonight, and when my daughter got home from cheer practice, I met her at the door to remind her to run upstairs and get dressed quickly. But she stopped dead in her tracks and said, “You look so cute!” Again, I took it and ran with it. I’m wearing some very faded camouflage pants that I purchased at a thrift store for $10 years ago. And tonight I paired them with a cute black blouse and suede wedges. It’s comfortable, but most importantly, it get two thumbs up from the teenage daughter…a rare feat, indeed!

The funny thing is that I bought the pants, like I said, from a thrift store (Buffalo Exchange) several years ago for $10. The daughter was with me when I purchased them and said she could not believe I was going to wear pants that had touched someone else’s crotch. I explained that all the germs from the previous owner would wash right out, but I could tell she was still gagging a little. I’m sure she doesn’t recognize my pants as the thrift store pants. And I think I likely paid $25 for the shirt from Zara several years ago too. The shoes? Well, they are cute suede wedges I wear all the time…and they are, without a doubt, the most expensive part of the whole ensemble…but they aren’t terribly expensive. It always seems to work that way, though. I could wear an expensive designer piece, and the teenage daughter would likely say it looks like something an old woman would wear…which, at 54, I am likely an old woman in her eyes! But I put on a thrift store outfit, and she acts like I’m the most fashionable mom in town!

This weekend is her senior year high school homecoming. The kids will gather for pictures Saturday night somewhere, and the parents will stand around like paparazzi. I will need to make sure I wear something she approves that night. Ugh. It’s an occasion I’d love to get her stamp of approval, but since those are so few and far between, I will settle for just a “you look good for a mom.”

That still counts as a compliment, right?

A Mother’s Work is Never Done…

A mother’s work is never done.

This week started out so great. I took my “sweet escape” with my friend to Miami for dinner at Nobu, and we had the best time! The day after we returned from that fun adventure, I took my daughter on a college visit. We have done a few, and she didn’t really want to do anymore, but I told her we were going, because some people had gone to a lot of trouble to schedule this tour, and we had a great time. We flew home Thursday night, feeling good about everything we had seen. College visits are one of the great things about motherhood. I love them. I’ve been doing unofficial college visits with our daughter every time we were near a university or college over the years, and we have done a few official visits. This was the last official college visit I plan to make as the parent of a prospective student. We are enjoying the college admissions process, but we are happy to have all the official visits under our belts. We came home on a high.

And then, Friday morning, things took a bad turn…

My daughter went to school in her cute little cheerleader uniform, excited about the Friday night football game. She left home at about 7:30am, and at exactly 9:30am, I received a text from her, saying she wasn’t feeling well. She was experiencing nausea. I responded, “Go see the school nurse.” Our daughter had lots of fun plans for the weekend, and I knew she wanted to tough it out, but when she called me a little while later, I knew she needed to come home. She had been to see the nurse and gotten some Tums, but she was feeling worse. I instructed her to go to the nurse and tell her she needed to come home.

She fought the good fight, but she was home at about 11:00am, and she went straight upstairs to her bed. And soon thereafter, the real nausea kicked in. Thank God she made it home before that started happening! It was a loooong day, to say the least. I didn’t know if she had a stomach bug or food poisoning, but either way, it was a long day. It’s hard to be sick, but it might be harder to see your own child sick like that. I did everything I knew to do…encouraged her to sip Gatorade, wiped her face and neck with a damp washcloth, rubbed her feet, prayed with her, stayed with her, encouraged her to try to sleep it off. We finally called the doctor, who prescribed some anti-nausea meds, and after taking them, she fell asleep till the next morning (yesterday). I was so thankful she wasn’t “hugging the porcelain throne” anymore. She was on the road to recovery, but I made her stay in bed most of the day yesterday. Her body had to be exhausted. I was pretty tired too, after staying up most of the night with her, which I was glad to do, because she is my baby, after all. A mother’s work is never done.

All day yesterday, my husband and I watched college football. My team won…barely…but a W is a W. We watched other games and relaxed all day. Our daughter crawled into bed with us last night and watched a game before retiring to her own bed for the night. I slept really well after being up most of the night before.

And then…

This morning, at about 6:30, I heard my husband jump up and run to the bathroom. The stomach bug had struck again. Man…the hits just keep on coming! We have managed to get his nausea under control somewhat, and again, I’ve worked hard keeping his drinks fresh, keeping a damp washcloth handy, rubbing his feet, and encouraging him to try to sleep it off, but now that I know how contagious this particular virus is, I’m not getting anywhere near his face. I’ve been washing my hands so much for the past three days that they’re starting to crack! I ran the dishwasher on extra hot this afternoon, and I’ve washed all the towels and washcloths in hot water. I’ll be moving them to the dryer soon…on high heat. These germs must die!

Our daughter went out for a little while this afternoon, but she wasn’t gone long. She called me and said she was on her way home. When she arrived, I met her at the door with a fresh cup of Gatorade and helped her get upstairs to her room. She is simply exhausted. I went to the nearby 7-11 and got her a Coca-Cola Slurpee. There’s just something about a Slurpee (or an Icee) that makes us feel better; she has believed since she was a little girl that Slurpees/Icees cure all ills. When she was a little girl and not feeling well, she would ask, “Will you go get me an Icee/Slurpee?” I dashed out and got her one every time. A mother’s work is never done.

I’m praying the husband starts to feel better in the next couple of hours. And I’m also praying I don’t catch this bug. Oh, it’s terrible. I’m even eating bland foods, just in case…grits have been the staple of my diet today. There’s very little I hate more than a stomach virus.

I’ll be sleeping in the guest room tonight, in hopes that I can bypass it! Yes, I slept in the bed with my husband last night, but I have a pretty strong fan on my side of the bed, and I hope it was blowing all his germs in the other direction. We shall see!

One thing I know for sure: when our house is rid of this horrible bug, I’ll need another “sweet escape.”

Motherhood

Motherhood.

I awoke at 3:00 this morning…wide awake. Taking a peek at the clock, I realized immediately it was my late mother’s birthday. And I couldn’t go back to sleep. The same thing happened to me on the first anniversary of her passing. I couldn’t sleep.

As I lay in bed, my brain started going crazy. That’s rare for me. I’m a person who can hit the pillow and fall asleep. Usually, when I wake up, I simply roll over and go back to sleep…many times a night, in fact. But this morning, at 3:00, I could not go back to sleep. I started thinking about my mother and how much she loved being a mother. Then I started thinking about how much I love being a mother. I truly believe it is the right job for me, and it’s certainly the single most important job I’ve ever done. I’ve certainly given it my all…just as I learned to do from my own mother, who gave us her all. She was a registered nurse by trade, but in her heart, what she always wanted to do was be a mom. And she was a damn good one. She would drop anything to help us or our friends. She made sure we were exposed to different cultures, different places, and different experiences. She volunteered at school and our extracurricular activities. She prepared meals and snacks for us and any of our friends who showed up at our house…all the time. Clearly, I did a lot of thinking last night.

After all that thinking, it occurred to me that our daughter will be a full-time resident of our home for less than a year. This time next year, she likely will be a few weeks into her first semester of college. It’s exciting for her, and it’s exciting for us. But until she goes off to college, I want to continue being a full-time mother, the best job in the world. I’m sure there are people out there who think it’s not important, but for me, absolutely nothing is more important.

And because I realized at that moment that my full-time mom career will be coming to an end when she goes to college, I needed to be closer to her. Sounds weird, but at that moment, I just needed to be “mommy” in the middle of the night again, so I went upstairs and crawled into bed with her. She stirred a little before rolling over and asking, “What are you doing here?” I explained how I was feeling, and she gave me a big hug and told me to stay the rest of the night. So I did. She intertwined her feet with mine like she did when she was a little girl, what we used to call “tucking in” her feet. She held my hand, more for my sake than her own, and we both fell fast asleep.

My own mother was always there for us in the middle of the night. Bad dream? I’d wake up Mother. Thirsty? I’d wake up Mother. Simply didn’t want to be the only one awake at night? I’d walk into her room and wake up Mother, asking her to go to the kitchen with me. We would sit there while I drank a little water. She likely had a cup of coffee…yes, she drank coffee in the middle of the night. It wasn’t that I needed water…I really just needed my mother. Last night, I guess I just needed to be a mother.

For years, our daughter would call for me in the middle of the night if she woke up. Or if she had a bad dream. Or if she didn’t feel well. Or if she just needed Mommy. At 17, she doesn’t do that anymore. Rarely, if she isn’t feeling well, she will call downstairs for me to come up. And on those nights, I do whatever it takes to make her feel better…a cold compress or warm compress, Motrin, Drip Drop (a rehydrating beverage), or just rub her feet or knees (growing pains). While I never want her to feel badly, I’m always happy to go up and help her.

She’s still my baby, and I’m still a full-time mom…for less than or year or so, anyway…just like my mother was to me. Today, on what should have been Mother’s 82nd birthday, I’ll be taking bottled water to my daughter’s cheerleading squad at the away football game…just like my mother used to do. And after I get home from the football game, I’ll have a little cocktail and make a toast to Mother’s birthday.

Happy Heavenly Birthday to Mother.