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On Mother's Day I expressed my appreciation to the assorted mothers in my life — my own mom, the mom of my daughters and my daughters who are now moms.

All of these mothers in my life achieved their maternal status despite my mostly unintentional efforts to thwart the process. Some recognition seemed in order.

All mothers are important. None of us would be here without one. But of all the mothers, the most important mother is the one you live with. You better not forget her.

I almost waited too late. Saturday night the greeting card aisle at the grocery store had undergone a violent sacking. Bent cards, wrinkled envelopes, and bits and pieces littered the floor around a display case into which rejected cards had been re-crammed into various slots.

All the good Mother's Day cards were gone. I was forced to buy one that said "Happy Birthday to a Great Nephew" and alter it to read "Happy MOTHER'Sday to a Great WIFE."

On the inside was "So Proud of You for Following Your Dreams." With a few strokes of a pen, I fixed this to read: "So GRATEFUL TO You for NOT LETTING ME SELL OUR CHILDREN."

Along with a $50 gift card to Home Depot and a clutch of leftover flowers, I was set. I went home, gave these tokens to my wife, and said, "I hope you know how much I appreciate you."

Her answer was an ominous, "Thanks, dear. I'll let you know about that in a while."

In another time that might have been an answer I looked forward to seeing fulfilled. Not anymore. I've reached an age where appreciating a mom requires genuine effort. And after nearly 40 years, the mother of my children can't be appreciated cheap.

Incredibly, what moms seem to want for Mother's Day is to be surrounded with the products of what made them moms: their children.

I ended up mowing the yard for Mother's Day. I pulled weeds, tilled a garden, straightened a fence, swept out a garage and hauled tables and chairs. And then I cleaned a barbecue grill.

Because I didn't clean the grill when I put it away last fall, this was a three-hour job that involved a hammer and lots of vile muttering.

For some reason, the house had to be clean for Mother's Day. Our kids and their kids are in our house every day of the week. Hell, our kids' and grandkids' FRIENDS visit our house most days. So why does the house have to be spotless to have them here on Mother's Day?

If you don't know the answer to that, you don't appreciate your mothers appropriately. I know because I asked.

Me: "Why do all the garbage cans have to be scrubbed out for Mother's Day?"

Her: "Look, do you really appreciate me or not?"

Complaining wasn't an option. As much as I worked to show her I appreciated her, she worked twice as hard because Mother's Day had to be perfect.

Everyone showed up Sunday after church. We grilled burgers and hot dogs. Grandkids and dogs ran through the sprinkler and tracked sand all over the house.

When it was over, I continued to show my appreciation by cleaning up. When the last load of dishes was done, my wife kissed me, thanked me and gave back the Home Depot gift card.

"Get yourself something with that," she said. "It takes a real credit card to cover Mother's Day."

Robert Kirby can be reached at or

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