What does Mommy get?

Lately, I’ve been very much in clover.

“Here, Mommy,” Luke says,  handing me a small limp stalk of clover from the front lawn.  “Here’s a flower for you.”  Not to be outdone, Matthew runs to the grass and picks a stalk too, handing it to me with a beaming smile.

I always take the clover with exclamations of great delight.  If we’re in the middle of a football game, I’ll tuck it in a pocket until we’re back in the house, where I put it in a “vase” (a Pyrex dish is the only thing shallow enough to handle such short, thin stems) in the kitchen window.

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It’s become quite the thing lately, this giving “flowers” to Mom.    At Golden Gate Park last Sunday, the boys kept handing me bits of clover from the picnic area.  I put the stalks carefully into my jeans pocket, but by the time we got home several hours later  they were already dry and crumbling, more like lint than actual foliage.

It didn’t matter.  The boys gave me more flowers the very next day.

I love it that my boys see clover — plain old garden variety clover, the kind you actively discourage from growing in the lawn — as flowers.  I love it that they give it to me with such huge proud smiles.  I love that they fully expect me to treat their tiny garden offerings in the same way I treat the birthday roses from Scott, or the stately  birds of paradise in the dining room.   It’s not the size of the flower that counts; it’s the sweetness behind it, the beaming face, the grubby  little hand reaching out to me.

Those things are precious.  They boys think it’s the flowers making me smile, but they don’t know the half of it.  It’s their innocence that makes me melt, that makes it so easy to respond with genuine, unforced emotion.  That’s it, the real gift.

This hit home to me yesterday, in fact.  As  the boys and I returned home (Matthew from school, Luke from a day at Grandma and Grandpa’s), they veered off to the lawn to pick me some more clover.  My arms full of schoolbags and mail, I could barely hold it.  Once in the kitchen, though, I added it to the small bouquet in the Pyrex dish, then got caught up in the usual routine of fixing dinner and supervising homework.

When Scott got home, the boys couldn’t wait to show him the toys they’d received from Grandma and Grandpa: a toy train for Luke, a poseable robot for Matthew.  (After raising two daughters, my dad can’t resist buying little-boy toys.)    Scott, for his part, was excited to play around with his brand-new phone.

“We all got something today!”  Matthew said.  “Daddy got a phone, and Luke and I got our toys.”  He thought for a moment.  “Mommy, what did you get?”

I paused for a moment, casting my mind back over the day.  Had I ordered a book for myself, bought anything at the store?  I was drawing a blank, when Matthew broke the silence.

“I know what you got!” he said happily.  “You got flowers.”

Why yes, I did.  And nothing could be better than that.

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