Today being Mother's Day and all, I wanted to do some sort of a written tribute to my Mother, who happens to be a writer. I thought it would be a neat idea to re-read a folder full of letters from her that I have kept in a filing cabinet for many years. Letters she wrote during my senior year of High School when I had moved away from her. Letters she wrote to me faithfully all through college, and some from when I was in graduate school, then newly married and then through the dark times after my divorce from my first husband. The written letters stopped then, as email had all but replaced the lost art of the handwritten letter (or in many cases with my Mother, letters hammered out on a multiply repaired old Smith Corona typewriter) My original idea was to compile a top ten list of wise sayings or sage advice that I received from my Mother in the many letters over the years which I may very well still do, considering all the fodder I have to pour through.
What I stumbled upon while sorting through the file was something even more fitting for the occasion. It was a story that had tumbled out of me back in 1999 when I had briefly lived in Seattle. A story I thought I had lost for good as I encountered the first page of it several years ago and wondered what had happened to the rest of it. It was scribbled out on seven pages of lined pages (the first page, which would have made the eight page, was now missing) in red, felt tip pen, skipping a line in between each. As I re-read the story I smiled to myself. I recalled reading the story to my mother on a long distance phone call to the Caribbean on Mother's Day from a phone booth. The writing was simple and even a touch adolescent, even though I was well into in my 20's at the time. Although the first page is still missing (I'm fairly certain it may still turn up) I will share the majority of the story here, without recreating any of it.
"I have my Mother and the rest of my family to thank for my strong moral code and my ridiculously high expectations of people in general. This hit home to me the other day when I was trying to have a conversation with this chick. So we're sitting in a restaurant and she's talking to me, I'm interested in what she has to say, as she's a friend of my dear friend Jenny, but something is driving me crazy about her. She's talking and talking and her eyes are looking everywhere but into mine. She's looking over my shoulder, above my eyebrows-she's all over the place. Then it hit me.
I have a flashback of the first time I tried to steal something from a drugstore. I must have been about four years old at the time. I'm wandering around this Minnesota pharmacy like it's Disneyland and I sight some interesting treasure; a selection of little boxes with the chararacters from the Peanuts comic in full color. Woodstock's my favorite, so I grab that one. I think it must have been perfume or something. All I know is that the box made a delightful sound when I shook it. I shove it into my pocket without my Mom seeing and a few minutes later we hit the street. I'm pattering down the sidewalk next to her and I'm so tickled I can't stand it. I yank the box out of my pocket and start shaking it like a tamborine as we walk along. Big mistake. Mom yanks on my arm to stop and the next thing I know she's on her knees with the Woodstock box looking straight at me. "What is THIS?" she asks, her tone indicating she is clearly not happy. "It's Woodstock" I mumble, looking down at my patent leather shoes. "WHERE DID YOU GET IT?" her voice booms again. She pauses and waits for me to answer her. "At the drugstore." Whoa. Here's where it gets good. I forgot to mention that my Mom is an Army Colonel's daughter, one of the well raised "Military Brats" of the twentieth century. Her tone gets even lower. "Young Lady, we are marching back and you are going to give this back to the clerk, LOOK HER IN THE EYE and say you're sorry."
Man, notice here we are "marching" back. We're not "going" back, we're not "walking" back, we are MARCHING BACK. And march on back we did. My little eyes were welled up with tears when we get back to the counter. "I'm sorry." I mumble, eyes downcast, to the cashier. But oh, no, no. My Mom's going to make this thing stick. "LOOK HER IN THE EYE!" She means business. I look up at the clerk, whose sweet but uncomfortable expression I still recall. She's doing a good job looking stern for my benefit. Our eyes lock. "I'm sorry I took Woodstock."
Its over. Mom doesn't hold a grudge. I think we may even have gone for ice cream together at Bridgeman's later that day. And the moral of this story is, since that day, I never take anything that doesn't belong to me and I always look people in the eye when I speak.