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I need your tips on good first-time Mother’s Day gifts.
Thoughts? Do’s? Don’ts?
To the letter-writer: Thanks, friend!
To the reader: The Gentleman Scholar did not receive this week’s question in his official capacity as whatever the hell he thinks he is. No, his pigeonhole down at the École Gentilhomme (firstname.lastname@example.org) is bare but for dust bunnies, iridescent feathers, and a few stray queries about smoking jackets and zoot suits.
Rather, I received the query from an actual friend this time last year. The letter writer was the father of an 11-month-old, and he was asking not just me but a group of old friends about a familiar bourgeois heteronormative nuclear-family type deal: What should he give his wife to honor her large heart and galactopoietic bazongas?
Respondent A confessed that he had never given his wife a single thing for Mother’s Day: “Maybe I’m a lout. My suggestion? Make her an awesome Sunday breakfast, and bake a banana bread.” Then he turned to the topic of his new dining room table: “When should we break the table in with poker at my place?”
Respondent B voted Saturday the 19th for cards.
Respondent C: “Flowers; framed photos; Ambien.”
Respondent D did a kind of email Will Ferrell shtick, gauzily reminiscing about the year he had soft-focus nude photos of himself made for the special lady and stoically revisiting the time he killed a drifter for her entertainment. Then he got serious: He could play cards on the 18th and the most elaborate Mother’s Day gift he’d had dared to purchase for his wife was photos of the kids framed to suit her desk at work. “I fear there’s a ratchet effect, so I don’t think I’ve ever gone bigger than that.”
Satisfied with his research, the letter writer stayed mum for a week, then asked, “Any conclusion on cards? I think I can do the 18th.” The 18th had a lot of potential! Respondent A checked with his wife and received unwelcome news: “Yikes, just was reminded that we’ll have her old roommate Anna here, with her newborn baby. So … no poker either the 18th or the 19th.”
Reader, we did eventually play cards at that dining room table. During that evening of poker, just last month, I jogged the minds of the assembled about this exchange, quoting their words back to them and inspiring a follow-up conversation even more frank and more concise than the foregoing. We quickly decided the Mother’s Day is just like Valentine’s Day: It’s stupid.
Don’t argue: It’s stupid. You know who has my back on this? The woman who invented Mother’s Day.
In 1907, in remembrance of her mother, (a rather excellent nurse,) Anna Jarvis ordered white carnations for every mom in the congregation at the West Virginia church where Mama Jarvis had taught Sunday school. Soon thereafter she began aggressively lobbying for the holiday’s national recognition.
In 1914, Woodrow Wilson issued a proclamation calling upon the people to put out their flags on the second Sunday in May to express love and reverence for the mothers of this country.
By 1923, Jarvis was aggrieved to see the holiday overrun with the weeds of commercial floriculture and littered with greeting cards: “I wanted it to be a day of sentiment, not profit.” She should have seen it coming when Philadelphia’s John Wanamaker—the guy who invented the price tag—immediately rallied to her cause. And then she went totally off the rails—filing crank lawsuits, hassling Eleanor Roosevelt, living as a shut-in. She spent her dying years in poverty supported by the affluent ironists of the Florists’ Exchange.
Don’t mistake me: It is tedious to dwell on what a sham Mother’s Day is. There is more to be lost than gained by taking a strong stance against the holiday. After all, you can’t fight city Hallmark. So just get on with it and do something loving and reverential for your baby mama.
Flowers? Sure. As noted above, the most traditional choice would be carnations, which look cheap but, on the upside, are cheap. I don’t know. A potted orchid? A host of golden daffodils? Maybe try throwing together a bouquet that mingles modestly pretty Gerber daisies with whatever doesn’t clash?
Food? Hey, you gotta eat, but whatever you do, do it early: By some estimates, that Sunday is the busiest day of the restaurant year. Expect places to be overrun with boors and yahoos who do not close their mouths when they chew but do, admittedly, love their mothers. Brunch is gonna get ugly. But maybe take the mother out for a properly decadent breakfast? Why not? The kid’s gonna be awake anyway, and if you get to the restaurant early enough, there will be few other patrons around to notice him behaving like such a little shit. The dining room of good hotel might be just the ticket here, on account of its hours and anonymity. I’m thinking white tablecloths, 8 a.m. cocktails, unclean animals, French pastry, boom. Try to get mama home by 11 for a morning nap.
The daddy who prefers to cook breakfast should study the scrambled-egg technique of this Vongerichten fellow and adapt it to prepare the official easy breakfast of the Gentleman Scholar Culinary Arts Center. We at the Center customarily present these eggs in a warm bowl, accompanied by toasted English muffins and gentleman’s relish, but it might be a nice Mother’s Day touch to spoon an opulent dollop of crème fraîche or clabber over the finished dish and set a cluster fish eggs on its rich cushion.
Scrambled Eggs for Bedraggled Adults
5 large eggs
1 tablespoon butter (or more)
2 or 3 tablespoons half-and-half (or heavy cream)
handful of soft goat cheese or something
Set a frying pan over low heat. Quickly dice the cheese and mix it with the eggs and the cream; season at will. Back at the frying pan, add the butter and then reduce the heat to its minimum. If you happen to have some scallions around—or ramps? ramps are a thing, right?—then dice and sauté them, you lucky duck. Pour the mixture into the pan. If you stir the mixture with an egg whisk as it cooks, then the eggs will be nice and fluffy, so keep STIRRING WITH AN EGG WHISK at a medium pace as you gradually turn the heat up a bit above medium. Once the eggs start to set into curds, turn the heat back down.