FIRST PERSON: Single Mother’s Day by Jessica Bram


jessica-bram(Original essay written for, May 8, 2009)


By Jessica Bram

Author of Happily Ever After Divorce: Notes of a Joyful Journey (Health Communications,  Inc. April 2009)


I couldn’t tell you what possessed me to walk through the jewelry department of my town’s most expensive store on that Saturday in May.  Perhaps it was the sunshine streaming through big windows onto the glass countertops, catching the glittering stones in arresting, glorious colors – amethyst, Caribbean blue tourmaline, sea green.  But I couldn’t help stopping, unexpectedly, at a counter spread with beautiful necklaces and bracelets.  They were not behind glass but atop the counters, spread out on colorful velvet boxes that set off their bright springtime colors.  Small clusters of murmuring shoppers and busy sales help surrounded the counters on both sides.

I soon realized that the jewelry had been brought out into the open like that for a reason.  It turns out it was the Saturday before Mother’s Day, and the store was clever enough to offer “trunk shows” of their jewelry, just in time for last minute gift buying.  And sure enough, there to my left, was a father and his teenage son, looking a bit confused, with several bracelets spread before them.  To my right, two young women, discussing whether their mother would mother would prefer the pink tourmaline dangling from chunky gold chain, or one made of blue stones called appetites, with a small silver medallion at its center. The sales help was doting and solicitous, modeling the jewelry for the shoppers, and giving gentle suggestions.

I’ve been known to let me eyes “feast” like this, as I would in an art museum, just for the sheer visual pleasure of it.  I’ve even done this in French pastry shops, stopping to admire the gorgeously crafted marzipan creations or delicate petit fours, but with no intention to buy one.  Sometimes it’s enough to just drink up the colors, filling some aesthetic hunger for beauty.

That was certainly my intention on that Saturday.  I had not given much thought to the approach of Mother’s Day that year.  My three young sons, I imagined, would probably “surprise” me tomorrow with a plate of eggs scrambled nearly black from the burnt butter in the pan.  The youngest, a first grader, would likely present a hand made card brought from school.  The oldest would have bicycled to CVS for a card that his brother would piggyback on at the last minute.

That would be more than enough for me.  I had my three children.  We had come so far through this impossible divorce, and were now in our new home.  With so many dark days behind me, there was little, at that moment, that I could want.  Certainly not jewelry.

But I was mesmerized by a necklace made of gold and silver squares, each with a tiny white sapphire at its center, that the saleswoman was modeling on her long, graceful neck for the man and his son. The jewelry designer himself was there, cooing in a French accent to urge on the sale.  Unsolicited, I spoke up, to offer the man and his son my friendly advice that the necklace would make the perfect Mother’s Day gift. 

Then something occurred to me.  Wait a minute, I thought.  I’m a mother.  A single mother at that.  A single mother of  three young boys. Don’t I deserve a Mother’s Day present too?

The logic was irrefutable. 

The next thing I knew, I was trying it on.  It cost a small fortune, of course, more than I had ever spent for an item of clothing, let alone a necklace.  I would have to go into savings.  Could I really do this?  Until now, buying jewelry was something that had only happened in collaboration, such as examining engagement ring stones with my future husband and parents-in-law at their dining room table many years ago, or after assuring my ex-husband that a significant jewelry gift was required at the birth of each child.  But today, with sunlight streaming into those windows, with the handsome French designer noting that the necklace looked perfect on me – this was different.  There was something positively exhilarating in the realization that this decision could be mine and mine alone.  And that yes, indeed, I was absolutely, unshakably certain, that no one deserved a beautiful Mother’s Day gift as much as I did that year.

Today that necklace is one of the favorite pieces of jewelry I own, more important than anything ever given to me. It reminds me of my sons, and the joy that they are in my life.  It signals my own recognition of how well I managed, after the divorce, to mother them in a way I can be proud. It reminds me that on Mother’s Day, no gift could mean as much as the pride I had in myself.

On this Saturday before Mother’s Day, I urge any single mother to do a little shopping for something beautiful today.  No one deserves it as much as we do.