Part of Jennifer’s mind was still feeling the sting of the forgotten Mother’s Day, but most of it was focused on teaching their son the importance of honoring his parents. After all, an 8-year-old wasn’t too young to comprehend. He could have – should have, saved some of his allowance for a gift. He was old enough to form the habit of saving and giving to others. Bill should have taken him out to get a gift. It wasn’t the lack of a gift that troubled her. It was the lack of appreciation – the selfishness and thoughtless action. Would he grow up to be one of those boys who was disrespectful of his mother? She forced her attention to the flyer on the table. There was no point in getting worked up about it again. Bill would catch on when he opened his gift on Father’s day. She had sworn James to secrecy about the gift. He had given in easily enough to saving some of his allowance to buy a gift for his father. It didn’t have to be an expensive gift. James had said he would get something, but he had said nothing. Ha he forgotten? Tomorrow was Father’s day.
The whine of the school bus starting up alerted her to the arrival of James before the front door slammed.
“Are you ready to go to the store and get something for your Dad?”
“I already have something. We made it in school.”
Jennifer smiled at him proudly. “Really? What did you make?”
“The same thing I made for you.”
Jennifer pushed down the growing frustration. “And what was that?”
James stared at her in surprise. “Oh, I forgot to give it to you.” He dashed off to his bedroom.
Jennifer sat in her recliner, listening to him ransack his room for the present. A school project, nothing more. It had meant so little to him that he had forgotten to give it to her. Even Bill had forgotten. She sighed heavily. She certainly had a task ahead of her.
James walked up behind her and tossed a weathered envelope over her shoulder. “Here it is.” He immediately returned to his room.
The home-made envelope was simply one sheet of paper folded and stapled on the sides. One word was scrawled across the front in casual crayon. “Mom.” She pulled the folded paper from inside. On the front were stick figures of a man, a woman and a child. “A Mother is . . .” she opened the hand made card. “Nice,” it said inside. “I love you Mom.”
Eight years and finally a school project hastily completed and forgotten.
“James,” she called.
He returned to the room, standing in the doorway with an apprehensive expression. “What?”
“Get the money you saved. We’re going to the store to buy your father a present.”
He obeyed with little enthusiasm. Once in the car, she glanced at him. “Have you decided what you might like to get your father?”
He ducked his head and muttered something.
“You did save some money?”
He shrugged. “A little.”
He looked out the window. “Two dollars.”
“But I just gave you that yesterday.”
James continued to look out the window without responding.
“James, don’t you love your father? Don’t you want to do something special for him?”
Jennifer sighed. “Well, I guess you can get him something.”
Two dollars. A crumpled hand-made card – forgotten. Was that all his parents meant to him? Kids simply didn’t appreciate their parents these days.
“Well, you get your Dad something while I go get grandpa’s present. We’re going out to supper with them tomorrow.”
They entered the store and consulted their watches. “Meet me up here in fifteen minutes,” she said, and started off for the men’s department. Let him realize on his own how little $2 would buy. Maybe next time he would start saving a little earlier.
She purchased a soft blue knit golf shirt for Bill and picked up the engraved watch for her father. When she met James at the counter, she asked him what he bought.
He held up a set of shoelaces. She sighed. “Well, he certainly does need those – thanks to scruffy.”
Scruffy was the family cat. A big tawny Siamese who loved playing with Bill’s shoe laces.
They went home and wrapped the gifts. Jennifer glanced at James’ tiny package and sighed. “Big things come in small packages,” she quipped.
James nodded. “They were the longest ones I could find.”
Great. He didn’t even measure the shoelaces. She pushed the frustration back again. At least he got his father something.
That night when Bill came home from work, Jennifer showed him the gift she got for her father. “I think it turned out nice, don’t you?”
He nodded. “I’m sure he’ll like it.”
“Did you get him something I need to wrap?”
Bill scowled. “He’s not my father. Anyway, can’t you sign the card from both of us?”
Jennifer bristled. “He’s your father-in-law. And yes, I could sign both our names.” She frowned. “Even though you didn’t bother to do anything.”
He shrugged. “Then don’t sign my name. It’s no big deal.”
“No big deal? That’s where James gets his attitude. Do you know that he made me a Mother’s Day card at school and actually forgot to give it to me?”
Bill’s smile was wry. “Well, it’s just a card, honey. You know he loves you. He’s just a kid.”
Her hands flew to her hips. “He’s eight years old, and if you’d taken the time to teach him, he’d know Mother’s Day was important.”
He frowned. “It’s just another day. We went out to dinner together. Wasn’t that good enough.”
Jennifer dropped her hands and sighed. “I know he loves me, but you paid for the dinner – mostly because your mother was there.”
He reached for her. “Honey, you’re not my mother. She is.”
She jerked away from him. “That’s right. And my mother doesn’t matter to you.” She raised a hand when he started to protest. “I know, she’s not your mother. I get the picture. I have a family and you have a family.” She turned away from him and started for the kitchen.
He grabbed her arm and turned her around. Slipping his hands around her waist, he drew her to him and kissed her. “Honey, I married you, not your parents. I love you. You and James are my family now.”
His gentle embrace was exciting, his lips warm as they sought the soft area below her ear. She curled her hands around his neck and rested against his solid form. What were they arguing about anyway? Wasn’t he a loving husband – a fantastic provider and a wonderful father? And yet, part of her wanted that traditional proof.
She kissed his neck. “Maybe I’m being childish . . . or selfish.”
He chuckled softly. “Maybe you’re making something of nothing.” He put her at arms length, his expression turning perplexed. “I guess women think differently about things like this. I’ll try to be more considerate.”
She grabbed his hands. “It isn’t the gift, you know.”
“I know.” His troubled gaze met hers. “But do you?”
She threw her hands in the air. “You don’t have a clue what I’m talking about.”
“Sure I do,” he said mildly. “You’re talking about appreciation.”
“But appreciation expressed on a selected day a year? Wouldn’t you rather have that appreciation every day? Do you think I don’t appreciate all the things you do?”
She dropped her hands to her sides and gazed into his eyes. “I know you do, and I appreciate you. I just want to show you how much, and I . . . can’t find words.”
He nodded. “I know.”
He knew? She kissed him as she brushed by. “I’ve got supper ready. He was right. Gifts didn’t display appreciation any more than remembering one day a year. It had become a ritual, like confession. Every day Bill went to work without complaint. He never forgot her birthday or their anniversary. Why shouldn’t he focus on his mother and father those days?
As she turned to put a bowl of steaming gravy on the table, she saw Bill lounging against the door jam, watching her intently.
“I love you,” he said.
“I love you too.” For a moment they simply enjoyed a moment of peace.
James thumped down the hallway and burst into the room. “Is supper ready? After supper can I go over to Hanibal’s house? His Dad just got a new grill for Father’s Day. Hanibal said it was awesome. It’s got . . .”
“Sit down, James.” Bill broke in with a stern voice. “Your mother has supper ready.”
James plopped down in a chair, his aprehensive gaze lingering on Bill. His attention switched quickly between Jennifer and Bill. Maybe he expected a lecture, but it never came. They bowed their heads in silent thanks for the meal. After a few minutes, Bill picked up the potatoes and passed them to Jennifer.
“So, what’s so awesome about this grill that you need to go running over there for?” Bill asked.
“Hanibal says you don’t have to put charcoal in it. He said it’s gas and it’s great big. It has tools hanging from it and it’s all shiny.”
“Hmm. Sounds expensive.”
“I guess. I don’t know. He says there is a place to warm hot dog buns and all kinds of stuff.”
“Who gave him this grill?”
“I don’t know. He just got it for Father’s day.”
“Oh, the Father’s day fairy brought it?”
James wrinkled his nose. “Dad. You know there’s no Father’s day fairy.”
“No. It must have been Hanibal who gave it to him. He only has one son, right?”
James eyed his father with a guarded expression.
Bill chuckled. “It’s nice to give things, but don’t forget that what is most important is appreciation.”
“Oh, I know.” James devoured everything on his plate. “Can I go now?” His gaze darted back and forth to his parents.
Bill waved a hand at the door. “Don’t be gone long.”
The next morning Jennifer fixed a nice breakfast and then urged Bill to his recliner while they got their gifts. James presented his first. He watched as Bill opened it as if it were something amazing.
The shoe laces fell into Bill’s hand, bringing a smile to his lips. “Well, would you look at that! I believe those are long enough to do the trick. Nice and thick, too.”
“They were the longest ones I could find. Do you think they will fit?”
Bill nodded. “I may have to tie them together, but I think they will be perfect for our little project.”
So, James had been thinking about a gift. Whatever they were working on this time, his gift was well thought out. She glanced down at the gift in her hands. It was only another shirt. She glanced up to find him watching her. She handed him the gift and watched him open it.
“Very nice. I needed something like this to wear to a casual meeting next week.” He smiled at her. “Thank you. I appreciate that . . . and you.”
He folded the paper absently. “I got a call from the doctor’s office Friday and I thought today would be the perfect day to talk to you about it.”
Jennifer sucked her breath in sharply. “Why did they call you? I gave them my number.”
“I suppose my number was on the bill – or maybe you weren’t here to answer the phone.”
He reached for her hand and she surrendered it. “Sweetheart, the rabbit died. What a wonderful Father’s Day gift.”
James stared at his father. “What rabbit? What was wrong with it?” His gaze jumped back and forth between them. “Are they going to give you a new one?”
Bill laughed. “Brand new.”
“Oh boy,” James cried. “Are we just going to have one rabbit?”
Bill and Jennifer looked at each other in surprise. “Well, I guess we’ll have to wait and see,” Bill finally said.
Jennifer gave Bill a stern look. “Let’s hope it’s just one.”
“Well,” James said, “Cant we order two . . . or three?”
Bill threw his head back and laughed. “I don’t think your mother wants all that work.”
“I’ll help,” James insisted.
Bill sobered and nodded. “I expect you to do just that, young man.”