The mother of all gifts often comes from the heart


Three-year-old Maxwell Crane couldn’t wait. “Mommy,” he exclaimed, “they painted my feet at school today.” Bemused prodding from his mom, Jill Flotken Crane, produced only, “No, I’m not going to talk about it anymore.”

So Jill, who recently moved back to St. Louis with her husband Ben and their children, is anticipating a set of footprints from Maxwell this Sunday on Mother’s Day. From 7-month-old son Carson, she’ll be pleased with giggles and noises.

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On Mother’s Day, sometimes it’s the littlest things that make the biggest impact: A homemade gift from the heart, spending time with children, a keepsake that becomes more special with the passing of each year.

Maxwell Crane now attends United Hebrew Congregation’s preschool, the same school where Jill was enrolled. Last year at the Chicago nursery school he then attended, Maxwell made his mom a set of his handprints for Mother’s Day. Now she and Ben, who have been married six years, will have something of a matched set.

At the other end of the parenting spectrum, Alice S. Handelman — “Grammy” to four and mother of three daughters — will be spending Mother’s Day weekend in New York City on her first-ever getaway with her girls. Though Patty Bloom and Karen Handelman, both of St. Louis, and their sister, Marjorie Handelman of New York, had planned to treat their mom to a girls-only trip for her 65th birthday, that year came and went. With the Handelman women still juggling schedules for mutual availability, Alice — married to Howard for 43 years — celebrated her next birthday.

That’s when her daughters zeroed in on Mother’s Day. “When people say, ‘What shows are you going to see in New York? Where are you going to eat?'” Alice replies, “I don’t know. It’s whatever the girls want. I’m just delighted and honored.”

Lizzie Gibbons Berman is likewise about to mark a milestone: her first Mother’s Day as a mom-to-be. She and Matt, her husband of nearly two years, are expecting their firstborn, a daughter, in August. An extended-family Mother’s Day tradition is already in place. On Sunday, Lizzie and her brother, Ryan, will take their mom, Shelley Gibbons, to brunch. Matt will join them. Later that day, it’s Lizzie’s turn to host the entire family, including her grandmother Ruth Berger, for dinner. The grandchildren all plan and contribute to the dinner spread.

“My mom and I are extremely close,” Berman says. “I hope, having a daughter, I’ll have that closeness, too.”

Lecie Steinbaum, mother of Noah, 12, and Jessie, 10, might be able to give her some advice. Her daughter, as well as her son, are “such great kids,” she says. “You could say every day is Mother’s Day to me.”

On Sunday, Lecie has more than an inkling about what she’ll be receiving, at least from Jessie. Lining the inside of Lecie’s jewelry box are 10 metallic-y pendants and pins, produced when a plastic-like substance is melted in a kiln at Conway School in the Ladue School District. Jessie, now a fourth grader at Conway School, has made one such art-class object for her mom each Mother’s Day, starting in kindergarten. Noah, a sixth grader at Ladue Middle School who has given no hints about his current present for Mom, previously made her six metallic-y Mother’s Day gifts.

Lecie and her husband, Richard, who met in eighth grade at Ladue Middle School, married 15 years ago

In the Zimmerman household, flamingos and Mother’s Day first con nected about 10 years ago. That’s when Susie Zimmerman and her husband, Stuart, returned home on Mother’s Day evening to find 50 pink flamingos on their front lawn. An accompanying sign said, “This is not your birthday. Happy Mother’s Day.”

Though Susie, who’s been married to Stuart since 1967, has long minimized her own birthday celebrations, she enjoys Mother’s Day. When the same commercial service that delivered her fake flamingos returned days later to haul them away, she was devastated, she recalls. And thus a more permanent tradition began. Sons Jake (now a Missouri state representative from the 83rd District) and Andrew, who lives in Seattle, regularly mark Mother’s Day with plastic pink flamingos.

Susie now has a flock in her backyard, plus flamingo-themed gifts from others including a Chinese carryout box, a pen and wine stopper. What is Zimmerman expecting this year? “I think I have enough flamingo accoutrements to last a lifetime,” she says.

Poignancy annually tinges Marion Lipsitz’s Mother’s Day holiday. Great-grandmother of five and grandmother of six, she has four offspring: Teddy Lipsitz of Bend, Ore.; Nina Titkin of Springfield, Va.; Babette Rittmeyer of Concord, N.H.; and Rochelle Lipsitz of Arlington, Va. A second son, Kenny, died in 1993 when he was 46. Diagnosed with multiple sclerosis at age 25, he is remembered as an ardent environmentalist, rock-concert promoter and businessman.

Though Marion talks by telephone with her daughters once or twice every day and with her son Ted two or three times a week, when it comes to Mother’s Day, she says it’s a gift from Kenny that remains close to her heart. Shortly after his diagnosis and while he was still living in California, Kenny sent his mother an oval-shaped turquoise, white and silver pendant.

Kenny spent his last 16 years in St. Louis. “The pendant was an unexpected gift and in such good taste,” Marion says. “To this day, I wear it and think of him with great fondness.”