My mother has always been a lover of penguins. Even though we live in the Southern United States and have to travel a couple of hours to actually see one, she still loves them. I still do not really understand why she loves them so much. But, every time she sees a picture, or video, or visits one at the zoo, her eyes light up and her smile gets really big.

Now, Mother’s Day in my family is somewhat difficult. My mom always gives us the typical “mom” response when we ask her what she would like on the day dedicated to our loving caregivers.

Annual Mother’s Day Conversation about Mother’s Day –

Me : “What do you want for Mother’s day.”

Mom: “Peace and quiet.”


The Mission

If your family is anything like this, I feel the frustration. Soon after my mom tells us this, we know there are specific items that she wants and its up to my family to figure them out. Sometimes, we all start early and coordinate what the budget is, who will buy what, and when everything is going to be wrapped. But, other times, it is a mad scurry to figure out what the heck to get something for someone who already gives so much. Jewelry and perfume are great, unless you have already given her those items last year…and the year before. And, sure, you could say it does not really matter what gift you give as long as it is from the heart. But this is mom we are talking about. And if I know my mother, which I do, this was a task not to be taken lightly.

The Search

Last year, my family found ourselves in this exact situation. We had no idea. There were the standard spa gift certificate and chocolate suggestions. But, when I slyly mentioned these to my mother to test the theory, she did not seem too enthused. So, back to the drawing board we went. Sure, we could give her peace and quiet. But, there are always things to read between the lines when it comes to gift giving. My sister wanted to get her a robe. “She already has a robe,” I said. “Let’s get her a robe nicer than the one she already has,” she said back. With only a few days left before the big day, we certainly had to figure something out quick.

Divide and Conquer

In times of desperation, teams must divide and conquer to get the job done. In this instance, that is exactly what we had to do. My dad went to buy some nice charms my mother could add to her bracelet and a loving card to express his gratitude. My sister went for the robe – plush and soft, perfect for those cold mornings. The only person left was me. It felt like all of the good ideas were taken. So, I was forced to come up with something unique and never done before in my family’s history of giving Mother’s Day gifts.





All or Nothing

Thinking about all of the things my mom likes, I simply could not connect it back to a gift for her. I walked aimlessly around jewelry sections, home improvement stores, and everything in between to try to find something. She likes birds in general, so I thought about another bird feeder to add to her collection. I pondered some fluffy pillows for the couch. But none of these really did the trick. Nothing stuck out. Until suddenly, it struck me. I remembered a joke I made to my mom a month prior. “I’m going to get you a penguin for Mother’s Day,” I joked. “Really? You’re going to get me an actual penguin?” she said doubtingly. “Yep,” I said as we laughed about bringing a live penguin into the house which would be less than ideal with our dogs.


I searched and searched for a penguin in any form – a shirt, earrings, socks, the tackier the better. Then, in the outdoor figurines section of a home store, I found the best penguin I had ever seen. This plastic penguin was made of wood and beautiful in its black and white color. It looked up at me and I knew this was what I had to give my mom for Mother’s Day. I knew she would love it no matter how weird having a fake penguin in the yard seemed. I marched the small-dog-sized penguin to the front register with a smile on my face. People stared at the odd-looking young woman smiling down at this yard decoration. But, I did not care.


The Happy Ending


The good news is it worked. She laughed when she saw her gift and smiled so big, much bigger than any of the other gifts. Not that its a competition. Nope. All, that matters is that she was happy with her penguin that I searched for high and low, all over town. She named him Waldo and plans to make hand make bow ties for him, according to the outdoor season, of course. He now sits on our hot Alabama back porch, watching over the flowers and green grass. Wow, a plastic penguin made my mom happy. This was the essence of gift-giving itself. It would have been okay if I bought her normal chocolate and kitchen towels. But, because I found something that struck to her specific interests, it made this holiday so much better. Who knew a plastic penguin from the outdoor section of a store would make the best Mother’s Day gift? I certainly didn’t.




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