Mother’s Day is this Sunday, May 9, just in case you were not aware
of the fact. Fortunately (don’t you just love capitalism?), the entire
Web this week seems to be chock-a-block full of eager-beaver online
retailers, simply falling all over themselves lining up for the
privilege of helping you put “paid” to your shopping obligations. Here
are a couple of groovy suggestions to get you started.

Be cool

Get Mom into a summer mood with an order from Ben & Jerry’s, whose Ice Cream by Mail service lets
you get six pints of topnotch ice cream delivered for $64.95. That’s
actually very reasonable, considering that
overnight shipping (in dry ice, yet) anywhere in the United States is
included in the price. The sneakily fabulous part about this gift, aside
from the obvious fact that you’re likely to score a scoop or two
yourself, is that you get six, count ’em, six assorted tubs of ice
cream. That means you can assuage your mom’s health-conscious superego
by selecting an appropriately grown-up assortment of sorbets and other
low-fat choices, while at the same time pampering her inner child by
throwing in that one pint of New York Super Fudge Chunk … or,
depending upon her geographical and flavor allegiances, the new and
exquisite-sounding Southern Pecan Pie. She and you can both pretend it’s
for Dad, but both of you will know better. (While you’re visiting Ben &
Jerry’s, by the way, stop off at the Fun Stuff area for its assortment
of terrifically foolish games — designed for kids, but destined to
appeal to goofy adults as well.)

Come to the aid of the party

It never fails to terrify and delight me the way my mother can
execute a warm, graceful dinner for eight or twelve or twenty,
navigating multiple courses as if they were the movements of a concerto,
without a missed trick or an inelegant segue anywhere. That’s why I’m
here asking myself, “Does she or doesn’t she?” — already have Martha
Stewart’s brand-new Hors D’Oeuvres Handbook

that is. Say what you like about Martha Stewart’s fomenting of hopeless
insecurity among contemporary American women; at least she understands
the concept of a simple, impressive, and yummy bite-sized treat for the
cocktail hour. This book should update the Martha canon of canapés to
delicious effect.

Frequent entertainers also tend to run out of frivolous party
accessories, like place cards or guest soaps. The latter can make an
especially dandy gift. Consider quirky and unique offerings, such as
these Zen Soap Stones. Or shop
at the incredibly convenient Crabtree &
which lets you hand-pick as many individual 40-gram soaps as you like in
whatever scents you like at $2 apiece. You just click on your flavor of
choice, such as lily-of-the-valley or freesia, then scroll down to see
if that size is available in that scent. If you haven’t the patience for
such meandering, there’s also a pre-selected sampler
of eight assorted
40-gram soaps available for $16, as well as a dedicated Mother’s
area offering an
impressive range of other gift sets.

Make a joyful noise.

CDNow’s Box Sets
area offers gift-quality collections such as the crucial Smithsonian
Folkways Anthology of American Folk Music,
which I must admit I covet myself, as well as sets devoted
to single artists like Billie Holiday and Bob Dylan. Their Mother’s

area has what strikes me as a rather patchy selection with a couple of
standout gems, but with everything in it priced to move at 30 percent
off, who’s complaining? Interestingly, two or three of these CDs contain
music chosen to stimulate and/or soothe newborns, youngsters, and
those still in utero
— a cute, if kind of
granola, idea for the first-ever Mother’s Day your loved one is spending
as an honoree.

For classical music, try CDUniverse .
It has fewer “suggestions” pages than CDNow: there’s no special Mother’s
Day page, for instance. But it has an incomparably greater selection and
far more powerful browsing. You can browse its classical section
comfortably by composer, title, ensemble, performer, conductor, label,
or catalog number. I found
my favorite recording of Purcell’s, “Dido and Aeneas”,
a not particularly obscure selection, on sale for $13.57 at CDUniverse
in all of thirty seconds; at CDNow, it took me several minutes of
coddling the picky search function to determine that they’d never heard
of the thing — or, at least, hadn’t got it in stock.

Don’t panic

If nothing’s working for you so far and you’re getting frantic,
jump-start your imagination at Usually I loathe
mall-esque sites, like the dreadful These sites promise any and
every kind of shopping from one portal, but usually prove to be
pay-to-play clearinghouses that offer one or two B-list name brands per
category, padded out with dreary sixth-rate storefronts.

911Gifts is very different. They’re a kind of solicitous concierge,
providing practical, thought-out gift offerings, a search engine, and a
Gift Expert email-you-back-within-24-hours advisory service. They also
have email alerts that’ll remind you when an occasion is approaching,
just the same you may one day be glad of their special QuickGifts
selections: same-day-shipping items that can be ordered by 3 p.m. today
and delivered to the recipient’s door tomorrow morning. Their Mother’s
Day selection is sizeable, their choices are many and well organized,
and their balance of taste and thrift is outstanding. Areas you may want
to look through include golf, gardening, “new baby,” kitchen, romance,
and many more; every one I’ve clicked on includes well-priced items that
a normal human being might actually enjoy receiving.

The perfect gift …

Whether you spend $2 or $200, two minutes or two hours, ultimately
won’t matter to Mom as much as the fact that you care. I’m assuming
here, of course, that you do care. Seriously — don’t get caught up in
the retail aspect to the point where you forget all about the hug or
phone call this Sunday morning.

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