They came bearing rocks and faux pearls

“Here mom,” Colin said plunking a rock in my hand. “I found it near the shore. When it’s wet, it’s a different color pink. I thought you could put by the window in the kitchen with the other one I found for you.”

Other one? I thought about the pebble I had found in my beach chair an hour or so ago and flicked off to the side one instant before it dawned on me someone might have put it there deliberately. Oops.

When they were little, the boys were in the habit of collecting things for me. If they saw anything that was pretty and/or interesting that didn’t have to do with anything necessarily boyish, they brought it to me. I have been the recipient of flowers plucked from the neighbor’s garden, shiny pieces of broken something from the gutter, and barrettes from the school playground, which made me imagine some poor girl with disheveled hair looking in vain around the hopscotch area after school.

I’m not sure if this behavior was brought about by instinct or was inspired by something else. I don’t think I behave like I need more stuff. The boys didn’t seem concerned about paying tribute as my minion, or bringing me baubles to prove their respective suitability as future mates for anyone who cared about anything other than Nerf guns or Star Wars Legos. Nevertheless, at least when they were younger, random crap usually came home from school, or in from their adventures outside, expressly for me. This was especially of the younger one, who continues to build collections of random stuff to this day.

I can understand getting weird stuff for formal gift giving occasions. From the time they were aware that holidays and birthdays warranted some sort of effort on their part, they’ve been excited to pick something out on their own for the recipient. More recently, they’ve been encouraged to shell out their own money for at least part of it.

The practice of letting people pick out gifts who hadn’t yet learned to tie their own shoes means I have a rather large collection of jewelry I’d never be tempted to wear outside a costume party where I come dressed as Wilma Flintstone, or Mrs. Rooper from Three’s Company (both have happened, and are not likely to be repeated).

“They were just something Colin thought were so pretty, like you. He had to get them,” Mike said, explaining my new set of oversized faux iridescent pearl cluster clip-on earrings one Christmas morning.

Throwing in with the boys to buy a collective gift can be as interesting as letting them go on their own.

“Let’s buy her a big rock for her yard,” Colin said once when I asked what we should get Grandma for mother’s day.

“Hmm, she’ll probably really like that. How about we also get her a locket she can wear with both your photos?” I said.

The boys loved the idea, especially Colin, who was fairly bursting with his enthusiasm to give it to her. Still a week out from the event he shared a hint.

“I’m not going to tell you what it is, but it’s about this big, and you wear it on your neck and it has our pictures in it!”

More recently, the boys have become more thoughtful in their gift giving, although their sentiments can easily be influenced by whatever display the store has set up directly in front of the main entrance. There was one Christmas where they pooled their resources to buy me a Snuggy – one of those blankets with sleeves you can wear in your Barcalounger while watching Three’s Company.

This summer, they’re both earning a little by doing various chores for which their grandmother and the neighbors overpay. My birthday is coming up, and Jack has been trying to convince me I’d really like the version of the Game of Thrones for the Xbox since I like the series so much. I’ve insisted I don’t have time for video games, but I’m guessing he still would like to think otherwise.

I’d actually rather do without the gifts, in favor of just having a peaceful meal with my family – one I don’t have to prepare, and during which no one argues. If it’s a benchmark occasion, or something, a whole day like that would be ideal.

A meal and peace, that’s all I thought I needed, until this morning when Colin placed the medium-sized pinkish stone in my hand and told me he thought especially of me when he found it.

I was transported to a day during his first grade year when I had arrived to walk him home from school. He held out his had to me with a present. It was a glittery hair clasp shaped like a butterfly.

He had been so excited by the find, he said, he’d carried around with him since first recess, worried if he put it in his desk or his backpack it would break before he could get it to me.

I stuck it in my hair, right at the temple – a big, sparkly reminder of his regard and the care he could take when he wanted to – and I wore it the rest of the day.