Saturday, February 15, 2014

Sugar on the Floor, and Other Memories of Mother

In honor of my mother's birthday on February 20th, I wanted to publish a story I wrote a few years ago, but never got around to sharing...even with mother!

Happy birthday, Mom! I hope you enjoy this story. Things might not have happened exactly this way, but this is how I remember them!

It was an accident, originally. I don’t even remember why my cousins and I got into the sugar. Maybe we just licked our fingers and stuck them in the jar for a quick treat. Anyway, whatever we were doing, some of the sugar spilled on the floor. What happened next is a bit fuzzy as it happened so long ago. I must have tried to scoot the sugar under the table and noticed how my leather-soled shoe glided over the sugar on the smooth linoleum surface.

I “accidentally” spilled a little more sugar and shuffled my feet in delight. My cousins followed suit. At some point we lost our inhibition, and soon had dumped nearly the entire jar of sugar on the floor! We went around and around the kitchen, ducking under the table, skating on the gritty surface in wild abandon!

This is my only memory of that kitchen. What a mess Mother must have had on her hands, but I don’t remember too much about that either. Later, Mother confided that she had peeked around the corner and saw the mayhem. Instead of rushing in to scold the lot of us, she watched in amusement, putting off the lecture we needed to keep our behavior in check. Mother was like that.

I was probably the only child in known history that was actually encouraged to jump on the bed! Sometimes Mother would say to me, ‘Why don’t you go jump on the bed?’ Delighted, I would take off my shoes, crawl up in my stocking feet and jump to my heart's content. Sometimes I landed on my feet, other times my bottom. I tried to touch the ceiling; I watched myself in the mirror. I didn’t know that I was given permission to do what other children had to sneak to do!

Another time I was playing with my cousin in our tire swing. I didn’t really like the swing because black rubber came off on my clothes, but I wanted to play with my cousin, and she wanted to swing. This day a little mud had collected in the rut made by our feet under the swing. In my cousin’s absence, this mud would have placed the swing off-limits, but my cousin felt no such restrictions. I noticed how she dragged her feet as she swung through the mud, making a spray come up. I thought, “If we add more water there will be more of a spray.” Well, we did add more water and were soon swinging through the mud, spraying it up in the air, on the tree, on the shed, on our clothes, and in our hair. It was great!!! Unnoticed, Mother watched from the kitchen window, being still so as not break the spell.

 These snapshots might lead you to think Mother indulged and spoiled me. Although she was a free spirit, a tomboy from childhood, that was not her underlying intention. I was born with scoliosis and problems with my hips and feet. It was not so severe as to be detected at birth, but when that magical age of walking arrived, I didn’t walk. I tried, but my feet turned in and my knees knocked together causing me to fall. Mother took me to specialists who fitted me with corrective shoes and taught her the exercises needed to strengthen my legs and stretch my tendons.

Instead of feeling sorry for me and shielding me from the world, Mother recognized that I needed opportunities for physical and emotional development. To create these opportunities, she drew on her naturally fun-loving personality. Rejecting many of the world’s self-imposed boundaries, Mother creatively encouraged the joys of activities such as jumping on the bed. Using wise discernment, she recognized and prolonged valuable moments of fun and play knowing there was always time for scolding and lectures. If playmates were lacking, Mother was there for games of dress-up or hide-and-seek. Mother was my first best friend.

Now that my children are grown, sitting and contemplating my past is a luxury I am beginning to appreciate. Even though I parented in a different way, much more structured yet not necessarily superior, my children were blessed with their own time with my mother. She took them walking through puddles, arrowhead hunting, bone collecting, and rock hounding. I am glad that they, along with me, were able to have those experiences and memories of Mother’s playful, fun spirit!  

Mom and Me circa 1963