You’re past the age of macaroni and glitter glue—but you’re never too old to send your mom a message crafted specially for her.

By Real Simple
Updated April 18, 2013
Daughter giving mother card
Credit: Jose Luis Pelaez Inc/Getty Images

“Think of a Mother’s Day card as a mini memoir,” says Trisha Thompson, a co-owner of Small Batch Books, in Amherst, Massachusetts, which publishes the memoirs of everyday people as mementos and heirlooms. “If you were writing the story of your life, which moments would best characterize your mother and what she gave you?” The quirky little things may mean more than the big general statements like “Thanks for always being there for me.”

Thompson says, “My favorite Mother’s Day card from my daughters said, ‘What other mom tells you that chopping garlic for dinner gives you a nice aromatic surprise on your fingers the next day?’ I loved it because it showed me they appreciate the offbeat humor we share, and that they remember it in specific little moments.”

Following are a few of Thompson’s tips to help jog your memories of life with Mom, so you can write a message as unique as she is.

1. Set the scene.

  • Flip through old photos. Pictures can be powerful agents for eliciting memories (Mom looking chic at the playground, or frazzled as she wrangles the camping gear). So can your own childhood photos (you in your favorite “bride dress,” which she washed each night so you could wear it for six months).
  • Reread old cards and letters your mother sent you. (From your sixth-grade graduation: “May you always be as happy as you are today.”) If you have access to them, look at old cards and letters that your mother saved from you. (“Mom I know I said I hated camp but now I don’t want it to end thank you.”)
  • Listen to the music she listened to when she was cooking or singing to you at bedtime (Frank and his “Summer Wind,” Stevie and her “Landslide”).

2. Jot down random thoughts and memories about your mother.
Words or fragments will do. (Graceful, fierce, kind, blunt, proud, pretty, generous…red lipstick, gravy, Ivory soap, chicken soup, spray starch, strawberry shampoo.)

3. Now try digging a little deeper.

  • What skills did your mother teach you that you use every day? (Employing humor to make people feel comfortable? Understanding that the secret to sewing is ironing before stitching?)
  • What little heroic acts of kindness did you take for granted at the time? (Did she always let your friends swing by for dinner? Cheer from the sidelines even when you sat on the bench the whole game?)
  • In what three ways are you and your mother most alike? (Did you inherit her love of books? Her quick temper that’s also quick to forgive and forget?)
  • Imagine your mom at the age you are now, and that the two of you are friends. What do you love about her most? (Her wisecracks? Her skill as an armchair therapist?)

4. You have the elements. Now put them together.
For example: “Dear Mom, Remember when you used to let me step on your feet and we’d dance around the kitchen? Without you, I wouldn’t have my love of show tunes, my knack for accessorizing, or a living example of what it means to see the best in everybody. So this is just to say: I owe you everything. Happy Mother’s Day!”

Still searching for the perfect words? These Mother’s Day quotes are another way to tell mom how much you care.