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The perfect gift for Mother’s Day

During the Great Depression, a 10-year-old boy bought his mother the perfect gift for Mother's Day—or so he thought.

The perfect gift for Mother's Day“Use this to buy your mother a gift for Mother’s Day,” my dad said as he handed me a dime.

It was 1938, and I was 10 years old. Being the older of two boys, I took the mission seriously. I was going to find Mom a useful gift that showed her how much we loved, cherished and appreciated her.

Woolworth’s five-and-dime was the place to shop if you had only a dime to spend. There was so much to choose from—small bottles of perfume, various ribbons, barrettes and knickknacks. But it was while looking in the kitchen hardware section that I spotted what I thought was the perfect gift: a potato peeler.

We ate potatoes nearly every day. My earliest memories are of my mother standing at the kitchen sink, peeling potatoes swiftly and expertly with her favorite paring knife. This new peeler, with its swivel handle attached to glistening double blades, would make her job so much easier.

After breakfast on Mother’s Day, Mom opened her gift. I studied her eyes and saw only delight as she exclaimed, “What a nice gift! Oh, thank you!” She gingerly kissed my brother and me on the forehead.

I was eager to see the new peeler in operation, but I noticed that my mother kept using her old paring knife. After several days of disappointment, I asked her, “Mom, why don’t you use the new potato peeler?”

“Oh, my goodness, I must have forgotten,” she replied. “I’ll use it tomorrow.”

But she didn’t. I concealed my dismay as she continued to use the paring knife. I even hid it once in the dark recesses of the drawer, hoping she’d have to use the new peeler. But Mom found the old knife and kept using it.

Maybe she hoped I would forget about the peeler, but it really bugged me. Finally I asked her if there was something wrong with her Mother’s Day gift.

Taking a deep breath, she decided to level with me.

“Alvin, the best part of the potato is just under the skin,” she explained. “This new type of peeler wastes too much of the potato and removes the best part.”

Seeing the hurt look on my face, she added, “Alvin, I’ll always remember your gift. I’ll keep it in the drawer forever so that every time I open it and see the peeler I’ll be reminded of what a wonderful Mother’s Day it was.”

She gently kissed my forehead and continued peeling potatoes.

Fifty years later, my brother and I stand in that same kitchen, sorting through Mom and Dad’s estate. Every item brings back a memory. As I dump the contents of a drawer into a box for auction, I spot the double-bladed, swivel-handled potato peeler. I pick it up and wonder how many times she held it in her hands and thought, What a wonderful Mother’s Day it was.

Alvin Rosser • Sparta, New Jersey

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Faythe Merrield April 10, 2013 at 1:33 pm

I’ll be showing my age here, Ill reach 81 years come May l8th……How blessed I am.!!!!! and I so well remember those potato peelers, matter of fact, I interited my Moms way back in l952, our marriage year…….it has and will always be used, maybe not as often as a paring knive, etc., but not just sitting there all the time….no,no…..there’s nothing even comes close to the old fashioned potato peeler……such a fun read, thanks so very much……I love Reminisce just for thisreason, nostalgia, most of all……..Faythe Merrifield


Margaret Whiteside April 11, 2013 at 5:47 pm

I hate potato peelers. I am on the side of his mother. They never get out the eyes of potatoes if they have them, and they also take away a lot of the inside when trying to get the eyes out without a knife. A piece of useless metal. My older sister never used one either. Could it be awkward for a left-handed person? We both are left-handed.


halftall May 10, 2013 at 12:29 pm

They have two blades on them, so they work the same in eitherhand. I have one I have been using for about 30 years . Last week I decided to treat myself to a new one on amazon.com, when I tried it it was so dull I got my old one out of the drawer and finished the job, works 100% better. Contacted Amazon for a refund & instructions on sending it back and they said I didn`t have to send it back, they would cridit my payment method ,how easy. I guess I`ll keep using the old one the rest of my days, in my right or left hand.
Give it a try in your left hand, it`ll work well for you I bet.


Francine Jones April 11, 2013 at 8:24 pm

That was a wonderful story. It brought tears to my eyes. Thank you for sharing.


linda eggenberg April 23, 2013 at 12:47 pm

I always look for old time kitchen utensils like my mom, aunt & grandma used, hoping to get some of the same feelings of love, but now that I’m old all I want to do is hang them on a wall. Btw, the rounded point on the end is to get the eyes out of the potatoes. Love your magazine.


Veronica (Sumerduck ) May 9, 2013 at 8:49 am

Alvin ? You are a blessed son ! What delight you brought to your Mother’s heart !
Did you keep the potato peeler ? I hops so . . . The way you watched your Mother,is how my boys watch me. I’m so thankful their watching memories ; Because one day they will hit rewind,and see that they were there for the live filming. There is nothing
better . . . .


Laura Dodds May 17, 2014 at 11:07 am

A Potato Peeler! Heavens’ above! It was a Microwave Oven! That my 2 older sisters & myself, chipped in to buy our Mom for Mothers’ Day for her convenience. And she wouldn’t use it because she was afraid of the harmful rays that it “might” produce. And also, what she had read about “those” ovens from our local newspapers’ critics column. So we had to exchange it for one of a lesser valued appliance-the Toaster Oven. Of which she used and treasured more than anything, because her 3 daughters had gotten together and bought a gift for Mothers’ Day to use always.


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