Elizabeth Clark's morning routine is pretty much the same. Seven days a week, the mother of three wakes about 6:30 a.m., dons a robe and slippers, and heads downstairs to make breakfast. "As the family's short-order cook, I put food in front of the kid who makes the most noise first," she says. "Then I just try to keep up the pace."
Ms. Clark dreams of the day when her children are old enough to flip pancakes or whip up omelets themselves, and perhaps occasionally deliver hers on a bed tray, just as she did for her mother.
She's not alone. A morning off with piping-hot breakfast consumed in the comfort of bed is more of a dream than reality for most moms. On Mother's Day, however, the dream often comes to life. "It's the ultimate in pampered indulgence," says Beth Souza, who couldn't imagine a better way to celebrate the occasion. "One Mother's Day," she recalls, "my husband took us to a local restaurant for a snazzy brunch. It was a mob scene! Much as I appreciated the gesture, I far prefer modest celebrations at home."
For Nancy Marshall, Mother's Day and breakfast in bed go together like the Fourth of July and fireworks. The tradition started when the first of her four children was a baby, and they were living outside London. Called "Mothering Sunday" in England, the holiday was then celebrated with whatever had just emerged from the oven at the neighborhood bakery.
Now that her brood has grown to four, the cooking is done by them at home - with a little help from their dad. Blueberry muffins or French toast is usually on the menu, and handmade cards as well as flowers from the garden brighten up the tray.
Most mothers agree it's the gesture that counts, not what's on the menu. And a thoughtful, pretty presentation is always appreciated. In addition to making heartfelt, homemade cards, children could decorate napkin rings, get creative with napkin folding, or garnish the meal with just-picked pansies. "Everything tastes better when there's a flower on the tray," says Ms. Souza.
But not every mother likes to eat her morning meal tossed in a sea of pillows and sheets, no matter how cushy. "When I think of breakfast in bed," says Susan Cinkala, "I think of sitting up uncomfortably, worrying about what on my tray is about to tip over."
Ms. Cinkala's typical breakfast routine includes sitting down with her two young children, eating a bowl of Special K, which she says is "really not so special," and about an hour later, noshing on a bagel or muffin while she goes about her day.
But if she were offered something a bit more elaborate, she just might stay tucked in for the morning meal. "I would consider staying in bed for the feast," she says, "if someone fixed me two fried eggs, bacon, wheat toast, and hash browns with a little ketchup on the side."
Some mothers invite their children to pile onto the bed with them; others would rather be left in peace. "I always enjoy the company," says Souza, adding: "At least for a while, anyway. It's more festive and celebratory. Then the children and Dad can retreat to their own breakfast downstairs and leave me with the morning paper."
Cinkala, on the other hand, would rather her little cooks and waiters return to the more mess-friendly kitchen. "That way, I don't have to change the sheets after my kids trash the joint," she says.
Ruth Hodges has a suggestion for tidy moms like Cinkala. "Put a big, old sheet over the entire bed. You'll catch all the crumbs and spills and enjoy a memorable indoor picnic for the whole family."
Ms. Hodges should know. She can't recall a single Mother's Day that didn't begin with breakfast in bed. "It's so much a part of the holiday in our home," she says, "that my six-year-old son Adam calls the only breakfast tray in our house the 'Mother's Day tray.' "
(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society