I came across this piece I wrote for my Mom a few years back for her birthday, and thought it was wholly appropriate to pull it out for Mothers Day.
A long time ago in a place far, far away…
The first thing I remember is WAITING. And play-dough.
Waiting for my friends to arrive for my 3rd birthday party and while I was waiting I kept looking at the home-made play-dough my Mom had made.
My Mom was cool that way. She did neat things like make home-made play-dough.
Home-made play-dough was MUCH, MUCH better than the store-bought, trademarked kind. Well, mainly because it tasted better. Salty. This was no pansy plasticised store-bought play-dough, THIS was the real thing. Hearty, stick-to-your-ribs play-dough. Bet the Donner party wished they had had some of THIS stuff with them that winter. Things might have worked out differently.
Anyway, later that day all my friends came and there was the usual chaos that happens when you get a room full of 3-year-olds together. The only other thing I remember from that day was a white cake with a cherry on top that I ate as soon as I had blown out the candles.
Next thing I remember was playing in the playground across the street.
My Mom would take me there to play in the sandbox and swing on the swings. One summer night there was a fire in the exterminator chute of our apartment building and my Mom took me and a neighbor kid over to the park in the night and swung us on the swings while the smoke cleared out of the building.
Next would be Riis Park Beach. When Mom would start telling me to get ready to go out and I asked her “Where are we going?” she’d just answer “Crazy”. If she had her brown vinyl bag with her when she said it, the chances were that we were going to the beach.
Then there was the Cookie & Lemonade stand that I set up with my friend Jerry. Well really my MOM did all of the work, but it sure felt like it was our own little venture.
If I was to remember one recurring theme growing up it would be me and my Mom travelling. Either by car, boat, train or plane, it sure seemed that we were always on a new adventure somewhere… Canada, Norway, Georgia, Cape Cod, New Hampshire, New Jersey…Heck, even little jaunts along the West Side Highway would become an adventure (especially the time when the car broke down on the elevated section with me, my best friend Jerry and his sister Tutti in the car. Mom must have LOVED that one..)
Other things I remember…
One time when we lived in the Bronx, my Mom cursing the names of both Sears AND Roebuck (and some of their ancestors AND descendents as I recall) because of the annoying messages they sent when we got behind on the credit card bill (but a boy’s gotta have underwear!).
On our second trip to Norway Mom took a bag that was a little too heavy and unwieldy and we couldn’t find one of the relatives we were supposed to meet up with in one place. We spent the night in a little hotel room and I couldn’t sleep ’cause of the jet lag. As tired and sore as she was, she still managed to engage me with some card games until I finally got to sleep. Later, on the island of Svolvr in northern Norway we hiked up a trail in the misty rain. I drank glacier water out of the stream by the side of the road alongside a field of buttercups and it was the best dang water I had ever tasted. Along the way I learned about Moors and some guy named Othello and about how if you held a buttercup up to your chin, if it reflected it meant that you liked butter (I did!).
Then there was the trip west, moving to California. Mom, Me, our dog, Sheba, and as many of our belongings that would fit in and on our 1971 Volkswagon Squareback with the right front door that didn’t work. We set up a little space behind the driver’s seat where either I or the Dog would lie down when the other was sitting in the front passenger seat.
It got a little chaotic when either me, or the dog, or BOTH of us decided, while we were travelling down the freeway at 60 MPH, that we wanted to switch places.
God knows what my Mom thought as the dog and I clambered over her right shoulder, one going back and one coming front… Rest stops were wild too. Since the right front door didn’t work, anytime we were coming to a stop somewhere Mom had to ready herself to get out of the way as SOON as the car came to a complete stop or risk being trampled by an anxious Black Labrador Retriever and 13 year old boy, yearning to get out of the car.
Through it all, thick or thin, rich or poor (and we were never as poor as my Mom seemed to THINK that we were from time to time) the one thing that Mom let me know in ways far too numerous to count was that I was loved. Unquestioningly, absolutely, loved. Even when we had our fights (which in checking with my peers were extremely few and far between compared to most folks), it was still clear underneath it all that that love was there and would always be there.
Now every now and then I hear her relate to someone how she thinks she could have done this better or that better or that she didn’t know how to handle one situation or another very well. I don’t know how to get it across to her that she did the BIG things about as right as she could and that she shouldn’t worry about the little things that might have gone better.
Growing up in a world where you are exposed to so many different people, places and things and doing so with the clear understanding that you are loved unconditionally is a pretty big thing.
It doesn’t get much better than that.