i just got home from a women's group where we asked each other questions from a deck of cards. one of the questions was something to the effect of "what is one of your favorite memories from your childhood?" i thought about laughing first off. the way you laugh when you are a kid- how you are so deeply tickled by what happened or said that you couldn't come out of it if you wanted. i thought of times when i laughed hard and i thought about the memories that make me laugh now.
here's one for you.
but first some background info.
i am one of the first "latch key kids" which means my parents divorced when i was 2, the year was 1976, and my mom was a working single mom. i have one older brother- almost 4 years older than me. we saw our dad everyother weekend and on holidays which was not enough. we usually came home to an empty house because our mom was at work until the early evening.
i still remember the excitment and anxiety of waiting for mom to come home. exciting news to share with her or another disagreement for her to settle- our worlds revolved around her presence. she wore heels and nylons and sensible skirts with brilliant scarves. shoulder pads like chunks of cheesecake and exotic earrings.
as i write this i am struck all at once with the enormity of my presence in my children's lives. not the responsibilty of mothering or the chore of mothering or the exhausation of mothering...but the reality that the way i felt about my mom coming home is what my sons feel for me. they are my sons and i am their sun. they orbit me. if i cease to exist they believe they will also.
here comes the sun, little darling. it's all right.
so my brother and i wait for mom to come home. we don't have babysitters but we do have mildly concerned/nosey neighbors. we don't have cell phones but we do have metal identification bracelets which we do not wear. we make ourselves food like cinnamon toast and eat it on the couch. we don't argue about what to watch on tv because there are only four channels and only one has cartoons on it. then we hear the rumble of the mustang's engine in the driveway and then the ka-chunk of the heavy door crunching together followed by solid heeled steps up the porch.
the door swings open wide.
my mom stands there, sun light streaming in behind her, purse hanging from one arm, both hands clutched to her sides like she's got her hands on pistols in leather holsters.
"alright" she says in a western slur, "which one of you bastards painted the balls of my horse blue with green polka dots?" then she looks at my brother and says "was it you, bart?"
my brother, standing near the rocking chair, cooly replies, "i did it. and i'd do it again."
she aims her imaginary gun at his freckled face and takes aim as he dives for cover. while i grab a hairbrush as defense and scream out "i helped him!" mad pistol fight ensues, littered with creative insults. eventually she takes us both down. when i am hit with that whispering dreamt-up bullet, i slowly die. really slowly die. it takes me a full three minutes. mostly because i have to make sure i land on the couch, with a pillow nearby. there's lots of "you got me" and heart-clutching movements along with raspy breaths and then the final sigh. then leg twitching.
my mom did that just because she knew it would make us happy. i'm sure there are a hundred-thousand other things she did too, but this one stands out as something she thought up just for us- knowing we'd buy into it right away and would be giddy with how silly she was being.
i do a lot of things for my kids. but i want to do more of that kind of stuff. the stuff that years from now they'll be thinking about and just start to laugh until their heart feels warm like they just got hit with the first sun ray of spring. that feeling that for a few moments the sun stopped, noticed their upturned faces, and started orbiting around them.