the daily doyle

August 18, 2011, 11:22 pm
Filed under: Family stuff

Today (August 18th) would have been my mom’s birthday. She would have been 81.

She lived a good life but maybe not for herself. She made a good life for others – that’s for sure. But her own life, at least the last half of it, was not lived as well as it could have been. She deserved better. But that is a story for other days. Today is Reminiscing-about-the-Good-Times-with-Mom Day.

My two sisters and I usually called her “Mom” when we spoke of her. I always always called her Mom directly. My sisters sometimes called her Mother, which I always found endearing.

She raised the three of us, with no man around to help. We have three different fathers. Undoubtedly, that’s an exciting story but truthfully, I don’t know the details of it. She kept most of it to herself and even if I knew the story I probably wouldn’t write it. I know a fair amount of what happened with my dad from what he told me. But it’s a story Mom didn’t care to share so I’m not telling it either.

So why three kids, all that work, and no man? I always thought she just loved us (myself and my sisters) and wanted to have us and just didn’t want a man around interfering. Maybe there is some truth to that. Possibly she intended it to happen exactly as it happened. In any case, she never complained.

We were poor, I suppose, but I never noticed. We always seemed to have what we needed. We never went hungry but we ate simple food and rarely ate out. We had good clothes, though she made some of them. I had toys, bikes, color TV. Everything we had along those lines, including an electric guitar and amp I remember from my early years, came from the Western Auto store. She bought everything on credit. When she needed something, she called up Clay, who owned the store, and he delivered it.

We didn’t have a car but she didn’t drive. It would have been pointless to have one. We got around by walking (we lived in a small town), taxi (Oscal Goble, one of the TWO taxi drivers we had in our aforementioned small town) and rides from friends and relatives.

My fondest memories from childhood are when she played with me. Since I didn’t have a dad around she had to “man up” and play some frisbee, toss a baseball back and forth and a few other outdoor activities. She even tried fishing once but she really didn’t have the patience for it and I quickly worked out doing it on my own.

We also played Monopoly, checkers, chess, Yahtzee and some card games. The best part is, she cheated. If I looked away, or left and came back, she somehow always ended up with a strategic advantage. We’d laugh endlessly about her cheating. She just did what she could to make the games a little more fun.

She worked ALL the time, early morning and late at night. Mainly, she was a seamstress. Our house was a constant stream of the townspeople showing up unannounced with dresses, suits, curtains to repair. Sometimes a big fat man would show up with a pair of pants he’d ripped out. That was funny. She made dresses and weird green, pink and psychadelic pantsuits out of polyester for the stylish women of our town. Hey, it was the 70s. She kept the leftover pieces of the clothes she made and sewed them into patchwork quilts. I still have one, my favorite material possession. It’s the best beach blanket ever.

She also made costumes and uniforms, being the only full-time seamstress in town. In the 70s, rock bands had to have matching costumes – think the Osmonds and Jackson Five. She made them, from scratch. She even made school band and cheerleader uniforms. Once when I was a young teenager, in 7th or 8th grade, my bedroom was full of cheerleaders in various stages of undressed, trying on their uniforms. It was awesome. Well, I imagine it was awesome. I got kicked outside and I was shivering in the snow.

As I said, she worked a lot. As I also said, she never complained. I remember clearly that, in my childhood, she sang softly when when she worked. Gospel songs mostly, along with some Jim Nabors and Stevie Wonder. After 1976, she didn’t sing anymore but that’s a story for another day.

Today, I remember Mom, I miss her and I know two things. Wherever she is now, and whatever she’s doing, the place and the people are better off because she is there, and she isn’t complaining.

Love you Mom.


Never Ever Ever Give a Gift Card. Ever
May 6, 2011, 11:27 pm
Filed under: Family stuff

Sixty-two percent of consumers plan to give gift cards this year. I looked it up. Gift cards are the most-desired gift amongst women. With men, they are not quite as popular, coming in at number three.

Gift cards are a big deal.

I am way out of the mainstream on this subject; in our house we never give gift cards. We rebel against gift cards.

Getting presents is fun. Giving presents is more fun, for me at least. I like the challenging game of choosing something completely unexpected yet welcome. Even if the gift is a huge failure, it can be really funny, and educational. Once I bought a sweater from the designer’s showroom in Milan for someone. I paid $270. She hated it. Never wore it. Wonder if she still has it. Many would say I should have bought a gift certificate to the Gap. Maybe. But then I wouldn’t have a story and I would have wasted that chance to learn what she liked and didn’t like.

A gift card just seems so pointless. If you don’t know me well enough to guess what I might like or you just plain don’t have time to shop, just skip it. I’ll take an honest hug over a gift card given because the calendar says you have to. I’m just not touched that you went to Publix and stood in front of that wall of gift cards and invested thirty seconds deciding between Bass Pro Shop and iTunes.

And how come somebody doesn’t just give money? Cash is the ultimate gift card, you can redeem it anywhere.

If you’ve ever given me a gift card, it’s ok – I do not hate getting them. I like buying stuff and I appreciate it if somebody buys me a gift card. But I’d rather have a regular gift, something you had to think about and stick your neck out a little. Even if the present wasn’t so great, I’d be happy that you tried.

I’ll be happy if every person who reads this article resolves never to buy another gift card. The above information should be enough. But just in case some of you are afraid to give up your crutch, I’m pulling out the big guns.

The retailers are screwing you with this gift card scheme.

First, once they convince you to buy their gift card, they get their money up front. You have basically become an investor in the store, but your investment never goes up. With inflation, your value actually continually goes down.

Second, the stores know that some cards will never be redeemed. People just forget, or they lose the cards. I looked this up too. A research firm, estimated the value of unused gift cards in the USA was about $8 billion in 2006. Eight billion dollars. In the same year, Best Buy reported a $43 million windfall from cards that are unlikely to be used.

Third, the stores know that you’re going to buy a little bit more than the gift card amount because you can never get a purchase to hit a dollar amount exactly. You may get a $25 gift certificate to Williams Sonoma and walk out with a $200 coffee maker. The stores know that it’s always good to get you in the store or on their website.

Do what you want with this information, but I have a request. Actually two requests. Search and find all the gift cards you have and go buy something with them. Then resolve never to send a gift card ever again. If you’re looking for something for me (Fathers’ Day is coming), I wear size medium and I look good in blue. I like anything Harley-Davidson and I like every kind of music. I LOVE food-related stuff. My point is, get to know people. Then you’ll know how to create the effect you want with a gift.

Mother’s day is in two days. No gift cards!