Saturday, June 14, 2014

Mother's Little Ways.

Zach Neal

Mothers have their little ways.

With my mom, when we were little kids, it was desserts.

She would make pudding.

She had these beautiful champagne glasses, ground crystal with etching on them. She’d put the pudding in there, with a dollop of whipped cream and a maraschino cherry on top.

She had her ways all right.

If we were being bad, she would just look at us.

“You guys had better smarten up—or you won’t get any dessert.”

Yeah, she knew what she was doing.

What sticks out all these years later was the dinner table scene. God, we used to have some awful fights around the dinner table. My brother, my sister, mom and dad, it was all we could do to get through it. It was like everybody hated something different, but all at once. My brother hated squash, and my sister wouldn’t eat her meat. My old man wanted milk and we didn’t have any, I thought the chicken rather over-boiled and could really use some salt. It took forever for the five of us to eat dinner, when all us kids wanted to do was to get back outside and play.

Then came that moment.

The moment we had all been waiting for. The plates went in the sink, this took some time. Then mom went to the fridge.

First my dad would get his pudding, and then my sister. Mom would put the next one in front of her plate. 

That day I must have been good.

I got a pudding.

Oh, yes.

We all looked at my brother.

He sat there glowering at the rest of us. He was not being a good boy that day.

My mom tried psychology.

“Maybe if you apologized, nicely, and said you’re sorry. What do you think, Frank?” And she would look at my dad.

“Uh, humn.” No problem there.

But my younger brother was the stubborn sort.

What really sucked was when one or the other gave in, and the son of a gun got his stupid pudding after all.

I suppose I figured we could split it—between the four of us, or maybe Mom would recall that I had been an extra-good little blighter for much of the preceding afternoon, and who knew?

I might even get that thing all to myself, if I did the dishes and promised to do my homework.

But it was not to be.

My brother got his pudding. We would fight this battle another day…

Here’s a funny thing.

One day we were having ice-cream.

But we were also having steak that night, and there was a piece left over. Mom said I could have it.

I really hadn’t been such a good boy that day. I was also getting wise to the act.

I guess you could say I could see what was coming next.

“Oh, hey, everybody. Guess what?” That’s my Mom. “Who’s been good today?”

Ah, yes.

The Question.

Always so bright and cheerful. Possibly there was some defiance in there as well.

“We have ice-cream for dessert.”

And she looked me dead in the eye.

“That’s okay.” I was a study in calm. “I think I’ll just go up and do my homework.”

There was a lengthy quiet spell, as she moved around, and I could see her thinking it over. 

Finally she said it.

"Okay." She wasn't real happy with it, but she said it.

And that’s the thing, isn’t it?

If you don’t want the ice cream, they no longer have any power over you.

Mom was a bit stunned, I think. That one must have came right out of left field.

Dad, I think, was impressed. Which was a rare thing, for him.

But, he kept his head down in his bowl and kept on eating his ice cream. There was a bit of white around the rims of his eyes, but he seemed okay with it.

That ice cream looked pretty darned good, too.

Vanilla, all covered in butterscotch sauce, and with a few crushed peanuts on there just to make it look interesting. A little bit of salt goes good with the sweet, doesn’t it?

I have no real regrets. I got enough to eat and I learned a valuable lesson that day.

What more could a man ask for?


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