Thank God Christmas is over! I had no idea it could be such a dangerous holiday.
It all started the morning I was shopping for a gift for my boyfriend’s mom. And let’s stop right there. That term, “boyfriend.” We really need to come up with a word that doesn’t make me feel as if I’m in high school, because while I may be in my prime, I’m decades past my prom. Yet, I have a boyfriend. And, well, that boyfriend has a mother. She’s really sweet and very smart, but because she lives out of town, I’m still just getting to know her, even after several years of dating her son.
I’ve only met her half a dozen times so I don’t know much about what she likes and doesn’t like, but I do know she’s really into shoes. Every time I see her, she comments on my shoes—no matter what pair I am wearing. And come to think of it, she talks about her own shoes fairly frequently, too. But you just can’t get your boyfriend’s mother a pair of shoes. In fact, you really can’t buy anyone but yourself a pair of shoes, unless they’re flip flops. And she is not the flip-flop-wearing kind of woman. At least, I don’t think so.
Anyway, last year I gave her a beautiful picture frame with a picture of her son (my boyfriend) … and me. It was taken when we were on a hot air balloon ride. I thought about it later and wondered if this was really an appropriate gift. I mean, she loves her son and I’m sure she is happy to have a recent photo of him. But a picture of her son with his girlfriend? In retrospect, I worried that it might have been perceived as some sort of jab. Could she have thought it was an, “I’ve got him now” kind of taunt? I mean, does any mother really want to see her son madly happy with another woman? Actually, my son is 16 years old and between his hormones and my hormones, some days I’m willing to give him to just about any other woman. Whether she makes him happy or not.
I don’t know if my boyfriend’s mother actually displays the picture and frame in her home, as I have not been there since two Christmases ago. And no, I do not take this personally in any way.
So this year, I thought I would give her something more meaningful; something she loves (besides shoes). I went to the gardening center to find her a potted herb garden because she’s a vegetarian and I thought she could use this in her kitchen.
So, I am standing in the garden center, where there are hundreds of pretty little plants displayed in a variety of pots on dozens of glass shelves. I bend down to smell one marked European Basils and suddenly I am propelled forward by some invisible force. My ankle buckles and I fall toward the glass shelf. I try to catch myself but I am afraid that if I grab the shelves I will break the glass and bring all of the plants shattering down around me. Instead I simply continue falling until I hear a crack as my rather-high cheekbone makes contact with one of the shelves.
The impact immediately throws my head backward, giving me some sort of garden-variety whiplash, and my cheek immediately begins to swell. I turn around to see what on earth could have thrust me forward like that, and I notice that while my back was turned, someone had placed a gray Rubbermaid trashcan directly behind me, apparently to catch some water dripping from the ceiling.
Now, I am not much of a gardener, but what exactly is the problem of rain water dripping among the plants in a GARDENING CENTER?
As I touch my throbbing cheek and roll my ankle around to ensure nothing is broken, an employee comes by to see if I’m ok.
“No, I don’t think I am,” I say, my voice actually trembling.
He was not expecting this. I’m guessing, like restaurant servers who ask if your food is okay as they walk on by, not bothering to see if you need ketchup or utensils or a third cocktail, this gardening center employee rarely encounters anyone who says anything but, “I’m fine. Can you tell me where the fertilizer is?”
Now I’m really about to cry because he’s walking away and I feel as if my left cheek is about three times as big as my right cheek. And what I am going to say to my boyfriend’s mother when I see her Christmas Eve and she asks how I got that horrible bruise on my face? I can’t say, “I got it looking for your gift” because she clearly wouldn’t believe that anyone could harm themselves looking for an herb plant. (She doesn’t know me very well, either. I’m not exactly the graceful type.)
So now I’m pretty upset and I am thinking of not buying the Basil plants at all. I realize I’m projecting my anger onto this basket of greenery that really had nothing to do with the injury, but I don’t care. I turn to the Rubbermaid trashcan – the anti-Christmas in all of this—and push it out of the way. I continue to give the trashcan a series of small kicks until it is out of the aisle, safely away from any glass shelves and innocent — though clumsy — shoppers.
Suddenly, I start to laugh. At myself, at the trashcan, even at my bruised cheek (and matching ego.) I realize that I’m really nervous about this gift to my boyfriend’s mother, that I want it to say much more than “Happy Holidays.” I need it convey all the things about me that she doesn’t yet know: that I’m a good person and a devoted mother. That I’m bright, responsible and kind. And most of all, that I care deeply about her son.
That’s a lot of pressure to put on a potted plant. But I think if I add a card, a warm hug, and a few years of showing her who I am, the Basils will be up to the task.
As I reach for the prettiest of the plants, I notice that the leaves seem to be reaching toward the drops of water falling from the ceiling.
And in true Christmas spirit, I hum all the way to the cash register, “Let it rain, let it rain, let it rain.”