Chronicling careless youthful exploits to a friend, I was reminded yet again what wonderful and patient parents I’m blessed with. I like to think I tell them adequately, if not often enough.
True to their natures, my mother and father don’t complain about my lack of calls or visits. Yes, hints are dropped at how cheap flights to Florida can be, but that’s the extent of their guilt trips. That pattern carried through my childhood. I’d like to make a list of anecdotes to remind myself how fortunate I am to have been raised by these two, not to mention that we still have them in our lives.
1. At the age of fifteen I started walking to the library as I had been doing for a few years, only now my boyfriend’s car waited out front. Our church, of which my mother was a choir member, stood directly next door and she inevitably caught me one practice night. Why I would be so dumb as to go that evening can be blamed on hormones, but try explaining how my enraged mother handled it so well. Rather than tell my strict father, she took me and my boyfriend to McDonald’s, bought us lunch, and gravely explained how we’d let her down. She insisted on being respected with honesty and proceeded to negotiate with Dad for my beau and I to have more time together!
2. Still basically a child at nineteen, I started seeing an older man my parents didn’t like. They didn’t complain, instead letting me see the mismatch for myself. When I wanted to break up with him they happily agreed to be my scapegoat. I calmly lied to the unsuspecting fellow, telling him they didn’t approve and I was forbidden to see him. To me it’s telling that I could even make that request, let alone that they would comply without a hint of “we told you so” in their voices!
3. Terrified of telling my father I was moving out to live with a man, I packed in secret for a solid week. As it turned out, my grandmother had prepared him for the news. She basically saw the inevitability before I did. To his credit, he hugged me and wished me well without a hint of disappaproval in his words or actions.
4. As noted above, I put all my belongings into storage boxes without my parents’ knowledge. What I didn’t say is how. To my knowledge, my parents never once came into my room without an invitation. All they asked was the same courtesy which, when I was a little girl, I didn’t always honor.
5. After I’d been out of their house for a few years I made the drive back to visit and my mother gave me her mother’s engagement ring because she could no longer fit the size. When I protested she argued that I would cherish and care for it, which was better than having the diamond sit in a jewelry box. I have since stopped wearing the ring everyday simply to preserve the stunningly delicate scrollwork which the jeweler fashioned out of white gold.
6. A little girl in our neighborhood was a complete and utter brat. One day she decided to bite me on the arm. Hard. I went home crying and when my mommy saw the teeth marks she told me to go back over and give as good as I got. She spent the rest of the afternoon defending me to the ridiculous mother of my “friend” and never once backed down from the woman’s diatribe.
7. As an adult I went home close to the holidays and my mom, a lovely alto singer, invited me to join her choir for an evening of practice. I hadn’t sung to more than the radio in years and certainly never as the soprano they desperately needed for the piece. What a boost Mom inadvertently provided when the director asked if I could come back for the performance! The evening would have been special without that, which was what she wisely intended all along.
8. Even before our long-awaited wedding, my parents purchased a queen-size bed so my guy and I had a comfortable place to sleep when we visited. Since he usually stayed with his mother in those days, it made the gesture even more meaningful.
9. On one visit to our home, my father reinforced our aging deck, painted the two story structure, then moved on to the ugly cement back wall. I didn’t even know they made paint that simulates stucco. His energy sapped mine but the end result remains impressive.
10. When the transmission went out on my car they lent me their credit card long distance. I had to pay the money back with interest, just enough to make me appreciate the value of money.
11. Right when we were moving for my father’s new job my baton corpse finally got real uniforms. Though I’d be long gone before the parade, my mother scrounged up the funds and purchased the pretty spangled jumpsuit. I still remember parading the spacious upstairs hall and twirling my baton for all I was worth.
12. While these days I buy vintage concert T-shirts on eBay, as a child I hated hand-me-down clothing. One time I actually told my mother’s cousin that I didn’t need anything. Mortified, my mother handled me very gently in that little etiquette lesson.
13. When his twenty-year-old girlfriend fell to pieces for the first time in his presence, my boyfriend called her parents. My pet snake had just died and I felt like I’d failed the poor creature, despite a trip to a reptile specialist who tried to treat Jake for something akin to a bad cold. Anyway, my dear father advised me to put him in the freezer until the weekend when I could drive up to visit. We had another Air Force Airman as a roommate, which made it awkward, but I didn’t care. When I made the trip it turned out my father had actually built a square wooden coffin! Now my colorful corn snake has a final resting place next to our family’s two elderly, deceased dogs. I try to imagine what archeologists of some future race will say when they discover the site.