The Cottage Smallholder

stumbling self sufficiency in a small space

Perfect present

Photo:  Mrs Boss and 3 day old keets

Photo: Mrs Boss and 3 day old keets

With Mother’s Day approaching I often smile about the first time that my sister and I actually sat down and thought what my mum would like for her birthday. I must have been about five at the time.

Until then it had been the sort of Indian giving that children go in for – liquorish laces that I knew would be returned (she hated liquorice). Or an afternoon playing with my favourite Dinky Noddy car. She’d put it on the kitchen table beside the ironing blanket as she thumped away. I’d stand beside her keeping my eye carefully on the little  yellow car,  just in case it vanished for good.

When we seriously considered my mum’s life we realised that she must love doing the washing up. As she always seemed to be sploshing about in the sink.

So we walked to the emporium at the end of our road and pushed open the heavy glass doors. We were met by a gentleman standing just inside.
“Can I help you?”
We explained that we wanted to by a dishcloth for our mother’s birthday. And that we had one shilling and sixpence to spend (15p in today’s money). I have a vague recollection of drawer being placed on the counter for us to choose. It just had to be the white knitted cotton one with the red and blue border.

“You still have enough money to have it gift wrapped! Let’s go to the handkerchief department where they will have ribbons and a box.”
The lady on the handkerchief counter took endless trouble with tissue paper and ribbons, arranging the deluxe dish cloth inside the elegant box.

We rushed home and hid the slim box carefully under the bunk beds so that my mum would not be tempted to take a peek.

We woke at dawn on the morning of her birthday and eventually burst into her bedroom at 5 am as we reckoned that she would be too excited to sleep too. She was sleepily enchanted with the dishcloth, the box and ribbons. She washed up that night with a special relish.

That evening we lay in our bunk beds and congratulated ourselves. Our choice was spot on and clearly exactly what she had wanted.

  Leave a reply


  1. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Jane

    I think of this each time I set out to find a present for my mum!

  2. Jane Weston

    What a wonderful post…And a wonderful memory. Thanks for sharing :o)

  3. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Cathy

    I often think of that trip to the department store. The excitement and terror of not knowing what to expect.

    The only thing that I felt confident about was that my mum would love the present :). She came up trumps and it was only years later that I realised she had been a marvel.

    I so agree with you. Shopping for presents for friends even now I have to concentrate hard on what they’d like rather than what I’d like.

    Hi Belinda

    I know where you’re coming from. If I had a birthday in early May (very early summer UK), I’d love some grow bags and fertiliser.

    D and I now give each other a budget and I tend to go down to TKMaxx and buy the clothes that we need on birthdays and Christmas. We do supplement these with small impulsive treats throughout the year!

    Hi Margaret

    Yes. Her heart was in the right place. Oh I’d love a decent toffee apple now it’s that stage in the evening when I need a sugar rush.

    Quite often I’m working at a house where the father shepherds out the children to but mum’s present. I know that they will present an ‘adult chosen’ perfect delight. Surely it’s better that the children choose what they think is right. They will probably get it wrong but they are learning about the mechanics of present giving.

    Hello Veronica

    My mum is a great present giver and present receiver.

    She taught me how to welcome any present from a crocodile to cheesy cookies.

    Hello Heidi

    Yes. The bad times might be good times in the end for a lot of us. It’s scary and I wish that I had a more secure job but I know that I can probably scratch around and make a living. I’m lucky, I can fix lots of things and also decorate.

    Homemade presents need skill. This takes time.

    Hello Joanna

    The idea of a gift wrapped dishcloth delighted us!

    Hi Nadia

    Loved hearing about the presents that you gave your mum. I think that my mum was given a lot of key rings too ?

    Hello Casalba

    Thanks for dropping by!

    Hi Sylvie

    I know exactly where you are coming from.

    Hi Wendy

    Really pleased that you enjoyed the story.

    Hello Pamela

    I couldn’t agree more. I tend to give inexpensive luxuries these days, like a decent biro or some very special peppercorns.

    Hello Nicki

    What a sweet story. You all must have been so excited!

    Hi Jan

    Yes my mum has lots of charm and diplomacy.

    Hi Beck

    Thanks for leaving a comment.

  4. What a sweet story.

  5. I think diplomacy is one of the most necessary mothering attributes, and your mother had it in abundance!

  6. Dear Fiona,

    Reading this today lead me straight back to the early 60’s. My brothers, sister and I went down to the local shops to buy our Mother a birthday present. Using the same logic as you and your sister we made for the ironmongers and purchased a dustpan and brush for 2s and 6d.

    What can I say other than we were very young and didn’t know any better. My lovely Mum remembers it to this day and still manages to stifle her laughter.

  7. For a number of years now I have had a reputation amongst my nephews and nieces for buying really cool presents, mostly because I was quite good at picking up clues from conversations and successfully storing them away to be acted upon when something suitable was stumbled across while out shopping. I also often bought presents while I was on holiday to be saved for the appropriate date which meant unusual gifts not seen here. I also have only 2 categories for possible gifts now: useful or edible. Edible can be extended to include things like flowers with a finite life and useful can include bulbs for the garden which will give pleasure for many years. Anything which needs to be found a home and then dusted is a complete no-no. I have also found that buying gifts when I stumble upon them means that I have much more pleasure from giving.

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