Binoculars, Key Finder, Bike Tuneup

It's always interesting to see what things your loved ones think you most want and need. Children, in particular, follow no established pattern in matching you with the ideal gift.  For example, a few years ago, my husband took our children to a stationery store before mother's day, gave each of them $5 and told them they could buy me anything they wanted with that money.  The result: a handsome yellow rubber luggage tag, a handful of extraordinary pens (in all colors of the rainbow), a little case that held three pencils decorated with a pattern of daisies. I still have all these things, and use them regularly.

This year, my youngest son has decided I need to do more bird watching, have a closer look at Seamus Heaney when I see him tonight from the balcony at City Arts and Lectures, and catch the spies that are lurking in our lemon bushes, disguised as large Meyer lemons. All these things will be greatly facilitated by the nifty binoculars he gave me for Mother's Day. Apparently, he first had his sights set on a telescope, thinking that nightly viewing of the moon would be good for me. Finding this beyond the reach of his saved up Christmas and allowance money, he instead settled for a device that will allow us to have a view of our neighbors with some regularity.

One of my older sons chose a handy device for a forgetful person to attach to her key ring. It comes with a tracker that this woman can use to locate her keys on those occasions they go missing right before she has to leave the house for work. She can push a button on the tracker and the device that's been affixed to her keys will begin to beep. She will then follow the beep to her keys and the morning will end on a high note.

The bad news is that a normal adult cannot program this tracker (let alone describe it) , even if that adult has a four-way major in English/Engineering/Computer Science and Physics. The good news is that setting up the tracker is not a problem for a ten year old boy. The remaining issue raised by the tracker is how we can prevent having the tracker itself go missing. That hasn't happened yet, but it is such a useful prop for any person who wants to pretend to be a spy (see above-mentioned son) that I imagine it might not be easy to keep track of. I'm guessing that we'll be needing a tracker for the tracker — maybe around Father's Day. For now, I am going to be optimistic about this tool and look forward to it making my life more fun in the morning. It also pleases me that my son chose this gift in part because he wanted to set it up for me. A good present gives to both the giver and the recipient.

My other son is away on a school field trip. He is coming back Wednesday. This will be my Mother's Day gift from him. We miss him terribly.

The bike tuneup was a gift from my husband. Obviously it contains a message: perhaps we won't ever find you a car. (See Starts. Runs. Stops.)  But I know how much you like using your bike to get around. And now it will fly down the bike lanes in our town because the chain won't fall off when you switch gears. He is nothing if not thoughtful when it comes to transportation.

Oh, and while he was out helping the boys pick out ideal Mother's Day presents he did another errand: he ordered an FJ Cruiser. My guess is that it will arrive just in time for his birthday and we can all present it to him on that occasion. My gift to him is that I won't say another word, ever again, about (her voice drops to a whisper) how it only gets 19 miles to the gallon in the city, and that is probably an inflated estimate. After all, we fully intend to drive this car for the next twenty years before we pass it on to one of our children, an example of how even if their parents did not always agree, they somehow learned to accept each other's differences, somewhat gracefully. (For a longer discussion of this problem, see Starts. Runs. Stops.)  The last thing I will ever say about this car is this: at the very least, our children can use it as a kind of playhouse for their children, something they can park in their backyard, something that will be a curiosity and a wonder, the thing we used back when we had to rely on petroleum.  Before cars started running on sunshine, or sugar cane, or crisco. 


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