For every Mother’s Day that I can remember, my mom has always asked for the same thing: a poem. The tradition started at a time when my two siblings and I were too young to earn money of our own. It stuck because my mom, like others I have met, has always preferred sentimental to splurge-y gifts, even if my stanzas could never compare to Keats or Ginsberg.
Second to poetry, my mother’s favorite thing to receive would probably be a photo. This is another trait she shares with many moms I know. These days, most photos she receives are sent directly to her digital frame to join the carousel of images from past weddings, vacations and karaoke birthday parties. But the bookshelves and mantles and walls at her home are still littered with “framers,” those pictures of moments so memorable that each is printed and preserved inside its own physical shrine.
Sure, a photo as a Mother’s Day gift seems like an obvious choice. But following two years that did not go as most people desired, why not give Mom something you know she will want?
If yours is anything like mine, then she has likely spent more time with her puzzles and comfy clothes and air fryer during the pandemic than she has with her children and grandchildren. Another photo will obviously not make up for that. But it might make Mom feel closer to her loved ones — and it would take up less space than a smart garden, watercolor set, or most other things she will eventually tire of.
Though the gift of a photo may be obvious, that doesn’t mean it can’t be surprising. At the very least, she’ll certainly be delighted by the nostalgia it evokes at first sight. Should you have the budget, presenting it inside a frame will only impress her more. And if you know where to look, there are options as unique as Mom herself. (If she or you don’t like photos, a frame could be used to show off art, printed memorabilia or, of course, a handwritten poem.)
For trendy moms, the metallic South Street Wave frame from Kate Spade ($65) has curves that recall those of Ettore Sottsass’s Ultrafragola mirror. Those who seriously appreciate design may prefer the KP01 frame designed by Kuno Prey for Alessi ($65). Mixing glass, birch and, of all things, a binder clip, the piece is decorative whether or not it contains a photo.
Also made of mixed materials, but more traditional in appearance, is the tonal wood and bone frame ($25) from Society Social, a brand I first learned about from SuChin Pak, a journalist, podcast host and mother herself. It would pair nicely — in a not too matchy-matchy way — with the white marble Clara frame from Magnolia ($22), a line co-founded by another mother, Joanna Gaines, a co-star of the home makeover show “Fixer Upper: Welcome Home.”
Few things are more classic than silver from Tiffany & Company. Small but elegant, the brand’s sterling-silver travel frame designed by Elsa Peretti ($200) has room for two small photos and is the type of timeless object that Mom may eventually give to you as a present someday if you’re lucky. Just as covetable: a Pleiade frame from Hermès ($760), which is made of mahogany and, like many of the house’s accessories, saddle-stitched leather.
If Mom is a maximalist, consider Jay Strongwater’s Bejeweled frame ($1,050), which is embellished with a dazzling array of colorful Swarovski crystals. More affordable but no less captivating is the Murrina Light Blu frame from Original Murano Glass in Venice (from $94), which is dotted with tiny glass beads, some of which look like little eyeballs.
Is she a museum-goer? The dark florals of the Peeters Bouquet of Flowers frame ($42), from the store at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, are inspired by painter Clara Peeters’s still life of the same name. Maybe Mom is more faithful to MacKenzie-Childs, another New York institution. To complement a collection of the brand’s black and white checked pieces, try the Vintage Button frame ($45), which has a deep green palette. Should her taste skew British, the blue-and-white Magnolia Blossom frame from English porcelain manufacturer Wedgwood ($145), established in 1759, may be more her style.
About a century and a half later, Cavallini started producing handcrafted wood frames in Florence in 1901. Its Pavoni frame (from $55) features silver leaf and a subtle, painted pattern that could be mistaken for a natural patina developed over decades. Equally old-world looking is the iron and glass Liliana frame ($175) from Jan Barboglio. Made by hand in Mexico, it comes with netting that can be placed over a photo to make it appear more antique.
Aerin’s handwoven Raffia Round frame ($125) is an airier style fit for bohemian moms or those who would rather be at a beach. Caspari’s Trellis frame ($80), with a green crosshatch design, is fit for green-thumbed moms or those who wish they could have glimpsed Elsie de Wolfe’s original interiors at the Colony Club in New York.
Finally, Aura Mason’s digital frame ($199), a Wirecutter top pick that is sold by the Museum of Modern Art in New York, is fit for moms, like mine, who will never tire of looking at photos — and deserve a more handsomely designed gadget with which to do so.