Ashley was busy doing a jigsaw puzzle when her big brother, Ben, came into the lounge. “Tomorrow is Mother’s Day,” he said. “We should do something very special for Mom. Will you help me?” Ashley clapped her hands. “Ooh yes, Ben. Are we going shopping?” “No, I’ve already bought her a present. Do you want to come and see?” Ashley followed her brother into the garage. On the bench, hidden under a sheet, was a beautiful wooden shelf in the shape of a heart. “I thought we could paint it blue,” Ben said. “Ooh yes,” Ashley said. “Blue is Mom’s favourite colour. She’s going to love her present.” Ben found two paintbrushes, and some sandpaper, and they got to work. First they sanded the shelf, then they painted a white undercoat and lastly they painted it a glossy bright blue. The shelf was beautiful. “What are you two doing in there?” Mom asked when she came home from shopping. “Nothing! Go away!” called Ben. “It’s a surprise,” giggled Ashley. That afternoon Mom went to the hair salon. “Quick, Ashley,” called Ben, “it’s time to put up the shelf. Can you hold the screws and the screwdriver for me while I drill the holes in the wall? Don’t lose the screws. I don’t have any more.” Ashley held the screwdriver and screws tightly while Ben measured where the shelf would go on the wall. Then she blocked her ears while he drilled three holes. “There we go,” said Ben. “Now pass me the first screw.” Carefully he screwed the shelf to the wall. “Now pass me the other two screws, Ashley,” he said. But Ashley could find only one screw. The other one wasn’t in her pocket. It wasn’t on the floor, or behind the couch. It was gone. It was almost 5 o’clock. Mom would be home any minute. “Never mind,” said Ben. “This will do for now. I’ll buy another one in the week.” “What shall we put on the shelf?” asked Ashley. “I think Mom’s best vase that her granny gave her,” said Ben. “And her favourite candlesticks.” “And the trophy I won at school for being the best at reading?” Ashley asked. “Definitely,” said Ben. “And the photo of Mom and me and you when you were a baby. She loves that picture.” Carefully they arranged Mom’s special things on the shelf. Then Ben spread the sheet over the shelf so it was hidden. A few minutes later Mom came home. “Hello, hello,” Mom called. “What have you two been up to?” “It’s a surprise,” giggled Ashley, “and you’re not allowed to see what’s behind the sheet.” “I’m very excited,” said Mom. “I’m sure it’s something wonderful.” “Do you promise you won’t peep?” asked Ashley at bedtime. Her mother tucked her up and gave her a kiss and a hug. “You are my best girl. I promise I won’t even lift the corner of the sheet.” It was almost morning when Ashley was woken by a loud crash. She jumped out of bed. Ben and Mom were standing in the lounge, staring at a terrible mess on the floor. “Oh no,” cried Ben, “the shelf fell off the wall.” “Oh no,” cried Ashley, “Mom’s Mother’s Day present is ruined.” “Oh no,” cried Mom, “my favourite vase is broken into little bits.” Everyone was upset. Mom sat on the couch and tried not to cry. “We’ll clean it up,” said Ben. “Mom, you go back to bed.” “Happy Mother’s Day,” said Ashley sadly. Ben got the broom and swept up all the pieces of Mom’s favourite vase. He was very upset. “Mom’s granny gave her that vase and now it’s broken.” And he tipped the pieces into the rubbish bin. “We’d better go back to sleep too,” said Ben to Ashley. “It’s not waking up time yet.” Ashley looked at the shelf lying on the floor. It had been such a lovely present. Now they had nothing to give Mom when she woke up. Ashley peered inside the rubbish bin. All the pieces of Mom’s vase were there. Maybe she could use some glue and mend it? She picked up the bin and ran out to the garage. There on the shelf was a big pot of glue. She spread some newspaper on the workbench and emptied out the bin. There were so many pieces! How was she supposed to know which ones went where? “I see!” she exclaimed. “It’s like a jigsaw puzzle. Lots of pieces that fit together. First I’ll find all the ones with a straight edge. They must be the rim of the vase. And this big chunk here has a handle on it, so it must be the side. And there should be another handle – ah here it is.” When she had laid out all the pieces in the right order she began to glue them together. It was hard work. The glue stuck to her fingers, and she had to wait for the pieces to dry. It took ages. At last the vase was finished. It wasn’t exactly the same as the old one. This one had a funny lump on one side, and the rim was a bit skew, but Ashley knew Mom would hardly see the difference. Ashley looked out of the window. The neighbour, Mrs Du Toit, was watering her vegetables. Mrs Du Toit was very clever and could make anything. Ashley ran over to the fence. “Please, can you lend me one screw and help me fix a shelf?” she asked, and then she told Mrs Du Toit the whole story. “Of course,” Mrs Du Toit said. “I’ll come over at once.” Mom woke up at 9 o’clock. She was still very sad. She found Ashley fast asleep on the sofa, and a sheet covering something on the wall. “What have you been doing all morning, Ashley?” she asked. “Surprise!” yelled Ashley. “Happy Mother’s Day. Your present is behind the sheet.” Carefully Mom took the sheet off the wall. There was the blue shelf with the candlesticks, and the photo, and the trophy, and … MOM’S BEST VASE. Mom clapped her hands. “You glued it back together!” she exclaimed. “It’s as good as new. It’s better than new. It’s the best present I ever got,” she said, giving Ashley a big hug. Ben also gave Ashley a hug. “You’re very clever!” he said. “You’ve saved Mother’s Day.” Ashley was so proud. Mom’s vase wasn’t exactly the same, but it still looked lovely on the new blue shelf. This story was provided courtesy of the Nal’ibali national reading-for-enjoyment campaign which works with schools, partners, and community members to nurture a love for reading among children in the Western Cape and across the country. To read the story in another South African language, or for literacy activities, reading tips and more stories to enjoy with your children, visit www.nalibali.org or nalibali.mobi. You can also find Nal’ibali on Facebook and Twitter: @nalibaliSA.