Unlike my mother, I own no window to the wants of others. As a result, I am bankrupt at gifting. I am the giver of books doomed to occupy musty shelves, unread. The gift certificates I bestow are accepted unwillingly, tucked into a wallet’s most unused compartments, forgotten, devoured to the zero by inactivity fees like healthy flesh nibbled ruthlessly, gradually to the bone. My closest and most dearest suffer, and my giving to becomes an indirect taking away from, and again I find my actions’ outcomes refuting their underlying intentions. This has too long been the case, but one day of the year offers me the opportunity to right this persistent wrong, to for once give as readily as I receive. That day is today, February 13th, my mother’s birthday.
Unlike her son, Theresa Petaccio is economical in her wants. When asked what birthday girl would like for her birthday, she will tell you what birthday girl would like. I asked her this very question some days ago, being as artless in my reconnaissance as in my gifting. She did not answer immediately, opted instead to let the pause brighten her end of the line, as if merely being asked was kindness enough. Could she abide another Yankee Candle? Another ceramic tchotchke bought out of the frustration borne from a child’s inability to adequately provide thanks in any capacity for what he has received over his life, for his life itself? Certainly she could not. I hoped she could not. My mother did not disappoint.
“You haven’t updated your baby pictures in a while,” she said. “I’d like that.”
Like always, she was right.
Like she said, I had not updated my baby pictures in a while, and while I understood her meaning this blog and my recent lax stance toward it, I also understood the phrase’s dualistic nature, how the years that flow from our infancy unto adulthood are nothing if not an updating of our baby pictures, the re-characterization of the self we had once been, the promise squandered, the promise realized. Because to my mother I persist, at least in part, as the pale, knee-high Juicy-Juice imbiber of yesteryear, the peaceably curious boy whose pastina soup she ice-cubed, the reluctantly grateful elementary schooler who protested half-heartedly to her driving him to the bus stop one driveway down, the young me who fashioned her birthday cards by putting crayon to construction paper and meaning every word. I did not like the idea of then me out meing the now me.
I would like to update my baby pictures for the better. Hence this post, and those to follow in greater frequency. If the thought indeed makes the gift, then my mother is as adroit in requesting as she is in giving, because if I hold anything in surplus, it’s thoughts, and as of late I have grown accustomed to lending no voice to those thoughts, to leaving them undernourished, orphaned, abandoned before they even have chance to be. No longer shall I do this, if only because my mother asks it, and it is less than the least I can do, but still an attempt taken earnestly, conscious of everything received and everything left to give to the woman who provides the ginger ale to my life’s every bellyache, who asks nothing of me and complains not a second when she receives just that, the woman who believes I will learn to give as she does, that I will be one day be like who I want to be, like who she is glad I already am.
I am also going to take her to the movies. We both like that.