Saturday, May 2, 2015

Saturday Musings, 02 May 2015

Good morning,

The week before Mother's Day: I find  myself thinking about my mother, who died thirty years ago.  Half my lifetime.  My son never met her -- never saw the milder version of my brash self -- the twinkle in her eyes which burns in mine, the spring in her step which causes me to stumble.

A month ago, I got a text from my son that said, "Today's not Mother's Day, is it?"  I had to laugh.  In the next week's mail, he sent me a document that I needed and on it he had placed a post-it note which read, in his right-brainer's script, Happy Early Mother's Day!  I have it still.  It's accolade enough.

When Patrick was very small, no one took him shopping for my birthday, Mother's Day or Christmas.  My sister Joyce would send presents labeled "To Mommy from Patrick", and inside would be little flowered plaques or candles.  Things that a big sister picks for her baby sister.  I appreciated them, and truth be told, I'd rather give than receive.  But Patrick was nearing kindergarten before anyone facilitated his procurement of something for him to give me, and that was a total stranger. . .

The cold concrete of Brookside bore our feet in and out of shops, the week before Christmas in 1995.  I had two or three gifts left to buy, and searched for just the right thing but at a budget-friendly cost.  Patrick compliantly followed me into a dress shop where I hoped to find a scarf for my friend Katrina.  

The owner bent over to pat his blond curls.  "Such a dear little boy," she exclaimed.  Patrick never grew accustomed to this attention and shrank a bit, but not enough to discourage her attention.  I stood nearby, holding a blouse that I thought Katrina might wear.  I checked the price, then put it back, moving over to a sale rack.  Patrick stayed with the lady, a polite boy who would not interrupt her animated engagement of him.

Then I heard her say, "What are you giving Mommy for Christmas, sweetie?"  I wondered what he would reply.  He had no experience with children giving  presents to their parents other than dandelions or pictures to hang on the refrigerator.  

His voice:  "I'm too little to go shopping by myself."  My heart spasmed.

The lady smiled at him and asked if his Daddy could take him shopping before I could stop her.  I heard my son murmur something about not having a Daddy and moved towards them as the lady sighed.  She looked at me and apologized.  I shook my head, and started to reach for Patrick's hand.  

Then the shop-owner asked me if I would trust her with my son for a few minutes.  "Would you let me 'take' him shopping?", she asked.  "You could just step outside, wait on the sidewalk, what do you say?"

I had been in the shop a few times, and knew her name but nothing else about her.  I saw kindness in her eyes, though, and a bright eagerness rising on Patrick's face.  I took a chance.  

I paced back and forth in front of the place, watching through the windows.  I did not feel the deepening cold nor discern the snow which started during my vigil.  I saw Patrick moving around the large room, reaching his hand, holding back until the woman spoke or gestured.  Then they disappeared for what seemed an eternity before they emerged from the back room, Patrick holding a box.  The lady motioned to me.  I opened the door and stepped inside.

"We're all done!" The lady's voice reached me as I crossed to the counter.  Patrick looked radiant.  He held the package against his small chest and told me that it was a surprise, that I couldn't see it, that he had wrapped it ALL BY HIMSELF on a big table with REALLY BIG scissors.  I looked at the woman, whose face mirrored the glee on my son's small countenance.

"How much do I owe you?" I asked her.  

"Not a thing," she replied.  "Your son and I settled the bill."

I felt my heart clench again.  I walked over to the blouse that I had wanted to buy for Katrina, and took it off the circular rack.  "I want to get this for my best friend," I told the shopkeeper.  "What do you think, Patrick?  Would Katrina like this?"  

Patrick studied the blouse for a long minute before replying.  "That's nice, Mommy, but it's not as nice as what I bought for you."  And he smiled so wide that I thought the room itself would burst.

On Christmas morning, I gently took the tape from the present which Patrick solemnly extracted from the pile of things from Santa beneath tree.  He stood eagerly beside me while I lifted a beautiful green knitted scarf with matching gloves from the package.  

"It's your favorite color," Patrick said.  "The lady said I could pick whatever I wanted, and I got you those!  Because you're always so cold, Mommy."

I wrapped the scarf around my neck and donned the gloves.  We sat, smiling, his stack of gifts forgotten, joy filling both of our souls to the very core.

I wore the scarf set all winter and indeed, it kept me very warm.

The following spring, my neighbor Tacy Rockwood took Patrick to buy a park-bench kit to give me for Mother's Day.  They assembled the bench in my driveway, with me watching, on Mother's Day morning. Patrick sat on the cracked asphalt, working the little Allen wrench, teeth gritted, grunting, while Tacy held the iron sides and wooden seat-slats in place.  When they had finished, I took the first turn sitting in the beautiful bench.  We placed it under the cedar tree and stood back to admire it.

"Happy Mother's Day!" my son exclaimed.  "Now you can sit out here and drink your coffee!"

I looked at Tacy, and saw again that perfect reflection of the child's happiness.  And I thought of the shopkeeper, who had given my son this same gift:  The gift of giving.

I still have the scarf, although the gloves have long since disintegrated.  And a few weeks ago, my neighbor Brenda rescued the ailing bench from the patch of ground on which it has sat for the  last nineteen years, out-living the old cedar tree, forlorn, neglected, over-grown with wild onions.  She carried it to the front yard and set it in a large patch of ground where there once stood an evergreen.  The shrub succumbed to the drought three years ago.  Though there had been talk of replacing it, that never happened.  It finally occurred to me that I had the perfect thing to fill it.  My Mother's Day gift, from my son.

Mugwumpishly tendered,

Corinne Corley

1 comment:

  1. So sweet! I teared up quite a bit at that one.


The Missouri Mugwump™

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I've been many things in my life: A child, a daughter, a friend; a wife, a mother, a lawyer and a pet-owner. I've given my best to many things and my worst to a few. I live in Brookside, in an airplane bungalow. I'm an eternal optimist and a sometime-poet. If I ever got a poem published in The New Yorker, I would die a happy woman. I'm a proud supporter of the Arts in Kansas City. I vote Democrat, fly the American flag, cry at Hallmark commercials, and recycle.