Mother’s Day has come and gone, and I hope you got your mother something nice. If you’re a mother, I really hope those cheapskates you gave birth to opened their wallets in appreciation because, as I always say, where would we be without our mothers? Nonexistent, that’s where. And you don’t need to be Sartre or Heidegger to figure that out.
My four daughters are always generous on Mother’s Day. It’s Father’s Day when they try to skimp and save. However, I’ve been keeping a record of gifts given and not given, because I operate by a very simple principle: You forget Father’s Day, and the father forgets you … on birthdays, Christmas and other assorted occasions where gifts are appropriate.
Anyway, in an effort to be a dutiful husband, this year I went through the annual ritual of asking my wife Sandy, “What do you want for Mother’s Day?”
Her predictable response was: “Nothing.”
“Even though you’re not my mother, I have to get you something.”
“I don’t want anything.”
As in years past, the discussion escalated until I finally pulled an answer out of her.
“There’s only one thing I want and you won’t get it.”
“I’ll give you anything,” I pleaded like King Herod trying to bribe Salome with half his kingdom. “You’ve been the best mother in recorded history and you deserve to be rewarded!” I learned to talk like that after taking several dozen management-training courses. They call it the “power of positive reinforcement,” and research shows that people prefer praise to a raise, although I really doubt it.
“Anything you want!” I re-insisted.
“A new mailbox.”
At this point, I will pause, catch my breath and try not to hyperventilate. Who the heck asks for a new mailbox on Mother’s Day? The Postmaster General’s mother?
“Is this because you don’t want that nice young mailwoman to cut herself on our rusty mailbox and have to get a tetanus shot?” I asked. No response. Radio silence.
I told her our mailbox is perfectly suitable for our needs. With a little duct tape, some Rust-Oleum, a wad of chewing gum and a bit of bailing wire, it will be good for another 25 years because to my thinking, the longevity of a mailbox should be the biblical threescore years and ten. However, that argument didn’t go over well, and Sandy had only two words in response.
“OK, OK, guilty as charged. A mailbox it is,” I conceded. Forget the jewelry, the purse, the high-end BMW. She chose Door Number 0: The mailbox.
At the time, I didn’t realize a custom-made mailbox would cost $350 before adding on the generous Connecticut sales tax, along with an estimated installation fee of $150. I should have just bought roses.
She insisted a new mailbox would give our house “curb appeal.” For who? The U.S. Postal Service?
Besides, I didn’t want one of those mailboxes with lilies, butterflies and bluebirds. And why did I have to pay so much for a box, when 90 percent of what it collects is junk mail? Why don’t I just drag the recycling bin to the curb and let the U.S. Postal Service toss envelopes in from a moving truck?
We’re really going to stick out like a sore thumb because — I did a survey — every other mailbox on our street and surrounding streets looks like a remnant from the Civil War or the Great Depression. Some are falling over after being pummeled by snowplows, and others are rotting away like archeological remains from the City of the Dead (Letters).
Nevertheless, I approved the mailbox project with a few price modifications, so now we’re going to drive 45 miles to pick up our custom-made, hand-painted, titanium mailbox suitable for space travel … for hamsters. Then, the handyman will install it, and my wife will be happy again until next Mother’s Day, when I will surprise her with a custom-made recycling bin decorated with lilies, butterflies and bluebirds.
Joe Pisani can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.