When Ryan Tierney was 11, he was a boy with a plan: to present Mom with a homemade book about their life together for Mother's Day.
He sneaked a blank notebook from the family's closet, and each night after Robin Tierney went to sleep, Ryan worked on it. He looked through old photo albums and picked out pictures, including a first-grade picture of her. He wrote, "Who knew you would become the best mom?"
"You know how a mother always says, 'It's not what you spend, it's the thought that counts?' " Robin Tierney said. "He put so much thought into this. People cry when they read it." In honor of Mother's Day, we tell the story of his gift and some others that moms treasure.
The mom: Carol Graves, Nesconset, Long Island, N.Y.
The gift: Handprint
Who made it: Her son, Justin
How long Mom's had it: More than 25 years
Graves' son made her a Mother's Day poster with his two handprints in green paint when he was in first grade. It also has a picture of himself and a rainbow. Mom framed it and still has it. Now, Graves' granddaughter Sydney, 3 -- Justin Graves' daughter -- has made a handprint in the same color for her mom, Katie. "You cry when you see the stuff," Carol Graves says.
The mom: Easter Bagley, Huntington, Long Island, N.Y.
The gift: An apron
Who made it: Daughter Ariell, now 10
How long Mom's had it: One year
Ariell made her mom the apron in school last year. "You had to pay for it for the teacher to buy it," Ariell said. It has an iron-on photograph of Ariell on it, and Ariell decorated it for Mom with hearts, flowers and rainbows. "You are the best mom in the world," Ariell wrote, along with "Happy Mother's Day." But the apron's not in use in the kitchen -- Mom hung it up in her bedroom. "I was just so touched by it," Bagley said. "I'm going to keep this forever. I love this; it's so special."
The mom: Robin Tierney, North Massapequa
The gift: A homemade book
Who made it: Son Ryan, now 18
How long she's kept it: Seven years
"It was a total shock," Robin Tierney says of the book, which also includes entries such as a poem Ryan wrote for her. Tierney was a single mom of three -- Ryan is the baby, and now he's heading off to Brandeis University in the fall. "This is the best present I've ever gotten," she says. She used to keep it on the coffee table, but put it away because it was written in pencil, and she didn't want it to fade or smudge.
The mom: Robin Atlas, Oceanside, Long Island, N.Y.
The gift: Pen Pal Letter Exchange
Who made it: Son Zachary, now 15
How long she's kept it: Nine years
"Hi, my name is Zachary Atlas and I'm 6 years old. When I grow up I want to be a pilot," begins the collection of letters Zachary exchanged with his parents as a months-long first-grade project. "In your first letter, will you tell me about the day I was born?" Robin Atlas remembers her emotion as she wrote to her only child, who was adopted, explaining how they were called to the hospital as he was about to be born. "As soon as we got there, you jumped out of the lady's stomach and into Mommy's and Daddy's arms," she wrote. The letters also talk about snow tubing and other family events. Now, Zachary no longer wants to be a pilot, incidentally. "He wants to be a filmmaker," Mom explains, "and do scary movies that scare people to death."
The mom: Lisa Wolf, Kings Park, Long Island, N.Y.
The gift: Paper flower bouquets
Who made them: Three of her children, when each was in preschool
How long she's kept them: The longest is six years
Lisa Wolf's four children -- now 10, 8, 6 and 3 -- all attended preschool. As the older three went through the 4-year-olds' classroom, each made the same project for Mother's Day -- a bouquet of paper flowers. Each flower had a gift written on it: "I will set the table," one said. "I will clean my room," another said. Wolf did redeem the offers -- "I think when I did it soon after, they were OK with it; if I waited too long, they were like, 'Mo-o-om' " -- but she put the flowers back together afterward and kept them. "They're sentimental, they're so cute," she said. She's still got one more bouquet coming, when her daughter Madison heads to the 4-year-olds' class next year.