James Lileks
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I propose a class action suit against the manufacturers of Mother’s Day mugs, for one simple reason. The phrase “World’s Greatest Mom.”

C’mon. There can be only one, but you see these mugs displayed by the dozens. This could lead to fights.

“Oh, I see you’re buying a World’s Greatest Mom mug,” one woman says to another. “So sorry it’s not true.”

“What do you mean?”

“I’m buying one for my mother, who really is the greatest. I can prove it empirically. She had my placenta converted to ash and took it to Mount Everest to sprinkle in the snow six months after I was born, so it would make me feel connected to the world. Her example inspires me daily.”

“Well, my mom had hot chocolate waiting every afternoon when I got off the school bus.”

“That’s cute, but it’s no Everest. I have a Sharpie. I can edit yours for you. How about: ‘One of the Greatest Moms, Drawn From a Regional Pool’? Or perhaps ‘My Mom Exceeds the Statistical Mean!’ That’s a nice sentiment.”

“My mom is not mean. Who are you to say that?”

Then the women smash the mugs and circle each other with jagged ceramic handles, snarling. Well, it could happen.

The point is that “World’s Greatest Mom” is a cop-out sentiment brought on by the fact that accurate phrases don’t fit on a mug.

“Thank you for instantly loving me when I was born even though I looked like a hyperventilating rutabaga”

Doesn’t fit on a mug.

“Thank you for making me eat vegetables, a process whose grudging acceptance turned into an appreciation for broccoli. I mean, who knew? But the way you made them with butter and garlic, that opened my eyes”

Doesn’t fit on a mug.

“Thank you for telling me I could be anything I wanted to be even though I wanted to be a princess who was a pony veterinarian in space”

Doesn’t fit on a mug.

But the reason you shouldn’t buy the world’s greatest mug has nothing to do with its overly broad assertion. It’s because there are two things Mom wants, neither one of which is another mug:

• Something handmade. Nothing melts a mother’s heart like a child who totters up with two sticks held together with gum and says, “I made this for you!” (Note: This does not have the same effect if you are in your 40s.)

• Time. It’s enough sometimes to show up and shut up. Just let her tell you tales about who you were when you were small. She probably remembers the day she put you on the bus for kindergarten for the first time, thinking that this was the beginning of letting you go and there’d come a day when you’d leave but not come back.

“Thanks for not running after the bus shouting, This process of giving you up to the world in incremental steps breaks my heart but it’s an essential part of the cycle of life’ ”

Doesn’t fit on a mug.

“World’s Greatest Mom” does, though. So maybe you could go with that. She’ll use it even if it gets chipped. “Mom, the cup cut your lip! You’re bleeding.”

“Oh, it’s nothing. Tell me about your day.”

james.lileks@startribune.com • 612-673-7858 • Twitter: @Lileks • facebook.com/james.lileks