Catholic New World: Newspaper for the Archdiocese of Chicago

The Family Room by Michelle Martin


When I came home from walking the dogs Mother’s Day morning, the kids were waiting for me with their present.

Standing in the kitchen, they held up a home-made poster, almost as big as they were. “Aloha!” it read. “Happy Mother’s Day!”

The Hawaiin scene included Caroline in grass skirt, her hair pulled off to the side in a ponytail, and Frank in Hawaiian shirt and shorts, strumming a ukelele.

The surf was rolling in, white and foamy, from a blue ocean, while a volcano erupted in red and orange in the background. Off to the side, our two dogs, Kirby and Polly, were drawn holding up their own poster—a miniature version of the one they were on.

Oh, and taped to the sky there was a dime from Frank.

The poster project had been under way for weeks, judging from how long I had been warned not to look in their room when they were in there together, from the whispered conversations and the unending questions about volcanoes and whether they were still erupting.

But while I knew they were working on something—something big, that involved markers— I had not seen the project, or found out its subject matter. I still don’t know why they chose Hawaii; we’ve never been there, and neither Caroline nor Frank has said that’s where they would want to go.

But it’s beautiful, not only for the details of the art work, but because it represents a joint effort. I can tell that much of the drawing was Caroline’s. She draws a lot, and I would know her style anywhere. But she obviously allowed Frank to have input (the volcano and the dime) and he, I think, took responsibility for most of the coloring.

It wasn’t easy for them to work together. As often as I heard, “Mom, don’t come in here!” I heard, from behind a closed door, “I don’t want to do this anymore! ”

But no matter how much they argued, both of them came back to the table and worked it out. And they did it without me getting involved to settle it.

I’m impressed by their persistence, by their ability to compromise and their focus on the goal: making me a Mother’s Day present to remember.

That wasn’t all they gave me, of course. Frank presented me with a poem from school with a handprint on it, and a paper crown proclaiming me “Queen Mom.” I wore it out to breakfast after church, despite the funny looks.

Caroline made a “memory book” that showed a blossoming sense of humor, sometimes at my expense. (A vacation memory: “Can I go in the water?” “NO.” “My mom is happiest when: I’m behaving.”)

The gifts they gave me have been safely put away with the rest of my treasures. I know that children don’t always believe their parents when they say that homemade gifts are more precious than anything they could buy in a store, but they are. When they make something, they put a little bit of themselves into it, or in the case of the Hawaiian self-portrait, a lot of themselves. The picture shows them as they imagine they would be on an island beach; I can look at it in 20 years and see the way they looked at themselves when they were 6 and 9. And see that they were willing to put aside their differences to make something for me. That, in the words of the Mastercard commercials, is priceless.

Martin is a Catholic New World staff writer. Contact her at [email protected].