Mom has made her mark on me - and on her stuff

I used to think that only wealthy people monogrammed their belongings - their linens, cuff links, stationery, bathrobes, and money clips. Actually, my poor mother has been monogramming her possessions for years.

She called me this morning and said that she'd left her cane in her grocery cart at Food 4 Less and would need to swing by there later to pick it up.

"The clerk said they had quite a collection," Mom said. "Fortunately, I put my name on mine."

Now I can't imagine that anyone would be lowdown enough to snitch my mother's walking stick, but I admire her for having the foresight to autograph it.

A poor person's monogram, though, is as different from a rich person's as A is from Z. These aren't flashy or florid letters etched in brass or stitched with gold thread. This monogramming is for security purposes only and Mom generally makes her mark with bright red fingernail polish or indelible black marker on masking tape. She also uses those do-it-yourself labels where you punch out letters on a long plastic strip.

Mom has been painting her initials or "Kac," her nickname for Kathleen with the cackling laugh, on the bottoms of her pie plates, cake pans, Pyrex dishes, and Tupperware for decades. She trusts the flock at the church dinners with her fancy deviled egg platter. It's her own kin who trouble her.

By personalizing her pans, Mom increases the odds that they will return home, especially after a risky visit to my place.

"I'm missing that blue speckled 9-by-12 cake pan," she greeted me by phone one morning. "The last time I saw it was when you hauled home the leftover Mexican wedding cake."

I checked my cabinets. Sure enough, a giant KAC in chipped red nail polish decorated the bottom of one of the pans.

Now that I think about it, Mom's been personalizing the family goods since I was a kid. One summer I trotted off to camp and unpacked my white sheets. Mom had boldly scrawled smiling faces on them.

I was mortified. She'd also marked my name on the bottom of my sneakers and on the labels of all my clothing, including my underwear.

This only caused my low self-esteem to nosedive. If, perchance, some practical joker snatched my underwear and tied it on the rope of the church bell, I would be forced to claim it.

The same happened with ugly hats as I grew older. Mom always sprawled our names in them so if they landed in the lost-and-found, they could unfortunately be easily reunited with their owners.

When I've been stumped in the past on gift-giving occasions for Mom, I've considered giving her a fancy umbrella, purse. or bath towels with professional monogramming, but really she would call it "too rich" for her lifestyle.

Besides that, it'd just be redundant.

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