“Just wanted to congratulate you, Lucille,” her neighbor Jalen said. The spring day was sunny and warm, and the farmers market was getting busy early. Tomorrow was Mother’s Day, and shoppers were buying fresh flowers and produce for the celebration. “When Lori told us the plan, Karlie and I thought it was a terrific idea. As far as our family is concerned, you are the real winner.”
“Thank you, Jalen,” Lucille replied, a bit confused.
“You have such thoughtful sons,” Jazmine Tulip told her. “Everyone at the farmers’ market thinks theirs was the best.”
“Thank you, I’m sure,” Lucille answered. What had her sons been up to this time? For once, it didn’t sound too awful.
All afternoon, customers congratulated Lucille. She thanked them, of course, but her curiosity grew as the hours passed. Finally, she had a moment to make a quick phone call.
“Yeah, Mom, everything’s fine,” Neal said. He sounded innocent enough. “Brant just finished taking out the trash, and I was watering the garden.”
Lucille wasn’t sure how to respond. She gave what must have been her fiftieth bemused “thank you” of the day.
“Okay if Lori and Summer come over as well as the Simmons? Tony’s promised to help me with my math, and the others want to shoot hoops with Brant. He told me to let you know the laundry’s in the dryer.”
Now Lucille was really concerned. She hadn’t sent a single reminder text all afternoon and her sons were doing their chores without being nagged?
As soon as the market closed, she caught the trolley to Willow Creek and briskly walked home.
The house was full of kids as usual when she arrived home.
“Lucille, if you have a moment.” Her neighbor, Eliza Pancakes, was on the front porch. “I wanted to show you something.”
“What have my boys done now?” Lucille braced herself.
“Something you’ll find quite interesting. I just wanted to show you this.” Eliza held out the Willow Creek Gazette, the local weekly publication. “As you’ll notice here,” she pointed to the headline, “Mother of the Year.” “My Evan came in second in the grade-school division, and I can hardly wait to claim my prize, a mani-pedi at the new Serenity Salon and Spa.”
“Congratulations, Eliza,” Lucille said.
“Thank you.” Eliza tilted her chin ever so slightly higher. “But what I stopped by for is to show you this entry.”
Lucille looked at the paper and blinked. “My . . . my boys wrote this?” she stammered. Eliza smiled in satisfaction. Everyone knew she reveled in being the first to know anything. “Why, thank you so much for sharing this, Eliza. I really appreciate it.”
“I’m sure you do. Glad to help.” Eliza followed Lucille inside. Lucille called to Neal, who was at the kitchen table with Lori and Summer. “Ask your brother to come inside. I’m going to change and will meet you both in the living room.”
A few minutes later, Lucille was expressing her gratitude and amazement to her sons. “This means so much to me,” she said.
“See, Brant, we aren’t in trouble. Told you it was fine.”
“Well, I will see you all later,” Eliza walked through the living room. “Tomorrow is a busy day for the restaurant. Happy Mother’s Day, Lucille. Tell your mom we have a table reserved for your family at ten, Lori.
“My mom’s at work,” Lori began.
“Well, never mind, I’ll pop in and tell your dad. Good evening, all.” Eliza left.
That evening, Brantley had an idea. “Neal, what if we gave Mom a gift certificate to Serenity Spa?”
“I like it,” Neal replied. “That Mrs. Pancakes always thinks she is something else. I’ll make up a card if you come up with some catchy phrase.”
The two boys worked on their project. “I think it turned out pretty nice,” Brantley said the next morning as he and Neal cooked breakfast for their mom.
“Better than our scrambled eggs and toast,” Neal laughed. Now that he and Brant had a common goal, they didn’t seem to be fighting as much.
The next week, Lucille went to the spa to redeem her homemade gift certificate. She was shocked to discover that Serena Sinclair, the spa’s owner, had upgraded it to the Ultimate Spa Day Package. Lucille sank into the mud bath. “I feel a bit like one of my flowers,” she thought as she leaned into the gooey mud, her face covered in a seaweed mask, and cucumber slices on her eyes.
“I only thought I was relaxed after the mud bath and facial,” Lucille told the massage therapist. “Now I know what relaxed means,” her voice trailed off as she drifted to sleep.
“You have beautiful hair,” the stylist told her. “It’s a bit dry and you have split ends, but nothing that a good mask and a trim won’t fix.”
After Lucille’s hair was styled, it was time for a makeover. “Let’s try something a little bolder on you. There!”
A manicure and pedicure completed Lucille’s day of beauty. The sun was setting as she changed back into her street clothes and left the spa.
Days later, Lucille was still relaxed. She spent a few extra minutes each day fixing her hair and makeup and began taking time for herself after work in the evenings.
“Mr. Kim!” Lucille noticed the boys’ Simlish teacher. “I didn’t know you worked at the spring treats stall.”
“Yes, I’m earning a few extra Simoleons for a trip my granddaughter and I are taking to Selvadorada this summer. Would you like a pretzel?”
“No, thanks. I just wanted to thank you for helping my boys with the essay competition. You probably have no idea how much it has changed our lives.”
“Sometimes it’s the small things that have a big impact,” Mr. Kim answered. “You know, Mrs. Peterson, life is short. If I could change one thing, I’d have tried to meet more people outside of work sooner. Now that I’m about ready to retire, I’ve finally realized the importance of friendship. After all, a stranger is a friend I just haven’t met yet.”
Lucille thought about Mr. Kim’s words on the trolley ride to Magnolia Promenade. She talked with people all day, but it was only about flowers or work-related things. Maybe she should relax more. Who knew what friends were waiting to be made?