My Mom Never Once Used the Mother’s Day Present I Bought Her—And I Couldn’t Be Happier

During the Great Depression, a 10-year-old boy bought his mother the perfect gift for Mother's Day—or so he thought.

Reminisce Magazine Mother's Day 1930s Great DepressionCourtesy Reminisce Magazine

It was 1938, and I was 10 years old. Being the older of two boys, I took the mission seriously. I was going to find Mom a useful gift that showed her how much we loved, cherished and appreciated her.

Woolworth’s five-and-dime was the place to shop if you had only a dime to spend. There was so much to choose from—small bottles of perfume, various ribbons, barrettes and knickknacks. But it was while looking in the kitchen hardware section that I spotted what I thought was the perfect gift: a potato peeler.

We ate potatoes nearly every day. My earliest memories are of my mother standing at the kitchen sink, peeling potatoes swiftly and expertly with her favorite paring knife. This new peeler, with its swivel handle attached to glistening double blades, would make her job so much easier.

After breakfast on Mother’s Day, Mom opened her gift. I studied her eyes and saw only delight as she exclaimed, “What a nice gift! Oh, thank you!” She gingerly kissed my brother and me on the forehead.

I was eager to see the new peeler in operation, but I noticed that my mother kept using her old paring knife. After several days of disappointment, I asked her, “Mom, why don’t you use the new potato peeler?”

“Oh, my goodness, I must have forgotten,” she replied. “I’ll use it tomorrow.”

But she didn’t. I concealed my dismay as she continued to use the paring knife. I even hid it once in the dark recesses of the drawer, hoping she’d have to use the new peeler. But Mom found the old knife and kept using it.

Maybe she hoped I would forget about the peeler, but it really bugged me. Finally I asked her if there was something wrong with her Mother’s Day gift.

Taking a deep breath, she decided to level with me.

“Alvin, the best part of the potato is just under the skin,” she explained. “This new type of peeler wastes too much of the potato and removes the best part.”

Seeing the hurt look on my face, she added, “Alvin, I’ll always remember your gift. I’ll keep it in the drawer forever so that every time I open it and see the peeler I’ll be reminded of what a wonderful Mother’s Day it was.”

She gently kissed my forehead and continued peeling potatoes.

Fifty years later, my brother and I stand in that same kitchen, sorting through Mom and Dad’s estate. Every item brings back a memory. As I dump the contents of a drawer into a box for auction, I spot the double-bladed, swivel-handled potato peeler. I pick it up and wonder how many times she held it in her hands and thought, What a wonderful Mother’s Day it was.

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Originally Published in Reminisce