I was never very good at telling my mother how much I appreciated her.  And I was never  too big on overly sentimental gifts. But every so often I would give my mother a statement present, something blatantly reminding her she was wonderful and loved.  She adored that kind of thing, which, as a mother, I kind of get now.  You give so much and sometimes the reserves run a little low.  You need someone to actually tell you you’re doing a decent job raising humans.

I’m not much for sentimental books or cards, but even as an adult I’ve always appreciated the value of a good children’s book. The message is usually direct and practical, tender but not sappy, funny and sincere without needless flourish.  Sure, I guess they’re sentimental too.  Whatever. We all have our ideas about what that words means.

Not too long ago I found this book in my mother’s things.  According to the inscription in the front, I gave it to her in 1997.  So I would have been around 19, living away from home for the first time.  I knew how hard it was for her to get used to not seeing her only child on a daily basis.  I must have felt a need to remind her of the status she held in my life, even if I was often too busy to call.

I thought about stashing the book away in one of the many shoeboxes where I save this scrap or that, endless cardboard containers filled with decades old handwriting and rotting paper.  I’m a hobby archivist.  Not a hoarder. Just saying.

But instead I decided to give the book to my sons.  They’re usually pretty gentle, but I knew even if they tore it up that would be better than letting it sit unnoticed in a deep, dusty box. It’s become one of their favorite books.  “Read Grover’s Mommy?” they ask me everyday.   Some days I remind them it was Mamma’s book.  Some days I don’t.

Do you see it?

What I love most about the book, and why I think I purchased it in the first place, is because the first picture of Grover’s mother looks strangely like my own, you know, minus the blue furry skin and all that.  That hair, my mom wore a similar coif.  Crisp red blazer?  That was a staple in my mom’s wardrobe, especially when paired with wool pants, much like Grover’s mommy is sporting.   For those of you that knew my mother, don’t you see the resemblance?

Who knows.  Maybe it’s just me and that whole thing about seeing the world through grief glasses or something.  Some days I think I see her everywhere.  Other days I have that empty feeling of having not seen her for years.

But every time I open the book, I think of my mom in her preppy clothes, every hair in place, bright red jacket freshly ironed.  Sure it’s a tender memory, but it’s also hilarious. I mean, look at this picture.  I’m finding my mother in a muppet.

After I recall her polished appearance I’ll think of myself at nineteen, baggy skate jeans, messy hair, always a bit socially awkward and confused.  But my mom was always so social, so polished, like Grover’s mom.

The book goes on to tell us that Grover’s mommy can fix a bike, throw a party, grow vegetables, and design costumes. She’s a “fearless explorer,” and a “math whiz,” riding bicycle paths and helping Grover solve tough equations like 1+2=3.

And, of course, on the last page it’s Grover who wears the cape, the super one, the one she made for him during her stint as an “expert costume designer.”  Oh, the layers. There’s a reason there’s lit crit for kid’s books. What a minefield.