I once spent a year doing form work (basically building wooden molds for concrete) on commercial construction projects, including a seven-story building and an arched bridge/pedestrian underpass. In the olden days, when carpenters used to do a little of everything, and construction companies didn't sub out every trade, I also formed and poured a number of foundations, basements and garage slabs. I built pools one summer during college, and poured concrete decks as part of the job. In the past couple years, I've poured a new set of front steps at my own house, and a big slab under the back deck. In terms of concrete work though, I'm still not fit to touch the hem of Smitty's garment.
Despite my limitations as a concrete guy, I thought that I would be able to successfully follow the instructions on a kit in which you pour concrete into a little form and make an impression of your kids' hands. The kit was a very thoughtful Christmas gift from my sister, which I cleverly figured I could parlay into a Mother's Day gift to my wife 'from the twins.' I would decorate the resulting--what? paving stone? paperweight? doorstop? whatever you want to call this hefty tschotshke--with glass mosaic tile leftover from the kitchen backsplash, and an inscription along the lines of "Happy First Mother's Day!" with the girls' names under it. I expected no less than tears of joy in return.
Historically, I am known as a terrible gift-giver. This is probably due to my feeling about most--well virtually all--gift-centric holidays: to wit, bah humbug! I want to start a Christmas tradition wherein everyone writes "Merry Christmas" on a $100 bill and exchanges it with their friends for a similarly decorated c-note. According to this tradition, throughout the season you would hug your friends and family, exchange cash, and everyone would come out even. Other traditional occasions for gift-giving merit much less ceremony and forethought.
Back in the day, when my wife and I had separate bank accounts (and I had a job), I would buy her big ticket presents (clothes, shoes, ski boots). When we combined our finances though, this became a pointless charade, so we simply started designating certain purchases as "gifts" if they fell near a holiday or birthday. For example, because my wife's birthday happens to be on Christmas day, one year she got a washer and a dryer.
But now and then, I will make something myself as a concrete (so to speak) gesture in commemoration of a holiday: a heart-shaped step stool one year for Valentine's Day, a heart-shaped meatloaf the next year; a poem for our fifth anniversary that made Dr. Mom cry in public. It was in this spirit that I set out to make the handprint thingy for her very first Mother's Day.
Since I thought the actual work of making the concrete Mother's Day card would be so easy, I kept putting it off because I had bigger fish to fry (cooking, washing bottles, facebook, etc.). Finally I got around to doing it yesterday, after mowing the lawn while the kids napped, and before Dr. Mom got home from her half-day at work. But in my haste, I put too much water in the mix. No big deal. I left it out on the deck to set up a bit.
Then Dr. Mom came home earlier than expected. I tried to sneak the kids out to the deck one by one to make the impressions with their hands, but by the time I did, the 'crete was too dry.
In my defense, I have to say that there were some problems with the kit. I found it nigh impossible to get a ten-month old to wear the Men's XL plastic gloves that come with the kit and push her hand firmly into the concrete as the instructions dictated, and I'm sure this would have been the case even if I had tried while the concrete was softer. All I ended up with was an angry baby with charcoal colored concrete on her face and what looked like a chunk of a prison-cell wall someone had tried to claw their way out of. Anyway, isn't this kind of thing usually done in plaster of Paris? It seems like a more forgiving medium.
So this one-square-foot concrete pour had kicked my ass. And I'm not proud of the way I responded. I don't fail gracefully, even though I've had plenty of experience. I told my wife what had transpired, blaming it entirely on the ill-conceived kit, and she was very understanding.
"It would have been a nice surprise," she said, which should have made me feel better, but instead deepened and prolonged my petulant sulking.
By the morning of Mother's Day, I had mostly recovered from this devastating disappointment, and bravely suggested some activities with which to celebrate the day.
Me: Should we go to brunch?
Dr. Mom: Nah...everyplace will be too crowded.
Me: Do you want me to watch the kids so you can go see a movie about sexy vampires or something?
Dr. Mom: No. I want to be with my kids today.
Me: How about a mani-pedi?
Dr. Mom: Phhht. Fo' what?
Me: A massage? There's that "Oriental Massage" place next to the head shop...
Dr. Mom: Nah...
Me: All right, look. Just figure out something boring to do that only you will enjoy, and the rest of us will come along. How's that?
Dr. Mom: That sounds perfect!
And thus Mother's Day was snatched from the jaws of doom! We ended up going to the farmer's market in Fiercetown, and then the Asian Market (not the local one, but the big one on the other side of town where they have live carp and prawns and sometimes stuff like sheep's heads [dead]). So although there is no concrete monument to the Mother's Day #1, we will always have the memories of the time we first bought pork belly as a family. (Actually, that was the second time, but the first time at that market. Whatever. It was special.)