Small prayer: “Now I lay me down to sleep. I pray my soul and marbles I get to keep. If I die before I wake, take my freckles and throw them in a lake…..and make The Mother be nice to me.” I was little. Seven years old. Maybe eight and nine. Even older than that.
This is hard. It took a long while but I finally learned that, in time, my freckles would mellow so to speak…but The Mother wouldn’t. She would be exactly who she was. Then. Always. Even now.
The Mother was a tough nut. A rough and ready-move-a-barge-and-lift-a-bale semi-truck driver. A swaggering sailor. A swearing, swaggering sailor. Let’s not be too harsh. Mother never smoked, and I never saw her drink alcohol, and she did make the best tea-parties for The Sisters and me…fresh squeezed orange juice (instead of tea) and cookies. The Mother was an excellent cookie baker, that is, until I could reach the kitchen counter and read a recipe…then I became the excellent cookie baker.
This is hard. I came to see The Mother as a vending machine. A vending machine that sometimes gave you your reward. What you asked for. What you wanted. What you chose. What you needed. Sometimes not. Mostly not. It was easier to expect nothing from The Mother…the vending machine…rather than be disappointed with losing the quarter. My Reader doubts that the vending machine ever worked properly.
It did work. Just not often. Or regular.
The easy part, over my lifetime, has been accepting The Mother for who she was…and is.
The hard part, over my lifetime, has been accepting The Mother for who she was…and is.
She will be eighty-nine this year. Getting around is difficult. She forgets words and names but, so far, not my name. She’s collected a lot of my quarters and after yesterday’s telephone conversation I see that I’ve become the repository for The Mother…I’m getting my quarters back one-by-one. The Mother is remembering stories of long ago. Stories of the old times. She remembers when she was that tough nut, that barge-moving and bale-lifting truck driver with the potty mouth. I’ve got quarters in my pocket for each story told. Stories I’ve heard a million times plus two.
I’ve become the repository for all the quarters…my quarters…and the stories…her stories.
Listening. A small price to be paid to keep The Mother’s vending machine working.
Not often or regular…but working just the same.
My name is Ruth.
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