My mother is the absolute hardest person to buy gifts for. She literally needs nor wants anything. When I was growing up, my parents would each declare that they wanted no gifts at Christmas, but then one would buy the other something. In turn, I would be interrogated on the amount of the gift, so the other could make sure to get something of equal value. This happened every year that I can remember.

So, when my Dad passed away four years ago, I became the other half of the “don’t get me anything for Christmas. Oh, but I got you something” charade. My sons have yet to learn their role as the middle-man, but they soon shall.

The other wrench in this whole scenario is that my mother’s birthday falls exactly 33 days after Christmas, so we get to do this whole dance for the next month. We started a charm bracelet for her about five years ago, and that has been something for us to add to during the holidays. But this year I wanted to do something different.

My mom is an registered nurse and has worked at the same hospital, on the same floor for 21 years. In that time, I don’t think she has ever used her vacation time and after the allowed rollover amount was hit, she lost those hours. Don’t get me wrong, we took family vacations growing up. But these days, she seldom takes any time off as she is in management and is very dedicated and passionate about her work.

So, I decided early on that instead of a wrapped gift this year, I would surprise her with a trip. We always talked about visiting new places, but she never really saw it through. I sat down and did a little research on where we could go, just the two of us, mother and daughter. I settled on San Francisco, and I knew if I left the details to her, it would probably just fall through the cracks. The first thing I did was reach out to her manager (who has also been at the same hospital, on the same floor with my mom for 21 years) and asked if she could have the time off of work.

Now, you’re probably thinking that this woman who has worked for 21 years and never takes time off, must have a mean boss that denies every vacation request. Well, that certainly is not the case here and when I talked to her she nearly cried when she heard my plans.

Christmas morning arrives, my mom opened a box that contained a case of Rice-a-Roni and after a few minutes of confusion, she found the note that says we’re going to San Francisco and that she can’t back out because the flight and hotel were already booked, and her time off work had also been approved. She had no words and was shocked that someone would go to all this trouble just for her.

Last week we set off for the West Coast and had the best time together. We did nearly everything you could imagine. We rode a double decker bus to sight-see and cross the Golden Gate Bride. We spent a day in Napa touring four wineries. We took a ferry out to Alcatraz and toured the eerie grounds, that happened to be covered in fog that day, but most of all we loved, laughed and bonded.

When I had first started to think about what to get my mom for Christmas, I saw an article pop up titled “The top 10 reasons you should take a trip every year with your mom.” And I knew that was a sign, from my dad, but also a reminder that even though we both lead busy lives and live four hours apart, there is always time for some one-on-one adventure, and to make some more lifelong memories together.

Elizabeth Engelhardt is the publisher for the Seguin Gazette. Her column runs every other week. You can e-mail her at elizabeth.engelhardt@seguingazette.com .

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