My mother, Dottie M., had a small sign in her kitchen. It read, "Bloom where you are planted."
It made sense to her, this wooden reminder, as she was a small town girl who signed on to marry a traveling lawyer man, a woman who never liked to venture out to foreign places, a lady who loved to stay put. She probably looked at that quote many times a day, when she was left alone in the suburbs most weekdays with four children. Bloom she must. As CSN&Y sing, "Rejoice. Rejoice. We have no choice."
But it sure made for some interesting stories.
Like the time a skunk walked through the open garage door to discover a chaise lounge in the form of a long-in-the-tooth spare GoodYear tire, a rubber round innocently resting against the garage wall, its inner space readily available for a skunk snooze. My sister, the then-four-year-old Kathy, witnessed this event, and reported it to the mater who was busy trying to make something-from-nothing for dinner one late spring afternoon.
Kathy: "Mommy, there is a bunny in the garage."
Dottie M.: (not really paying much attention, as a woman with many children learns to do, for her own sanity) "Oh? What kind of bunny?"
Kathy: "It's a black bunny, with a white stripe."
Sound the alarm.
My mother had the skill of turning a small event into the Poseidon Adventure, with a little Wreck of the Hesperus mixed in for what-the-heck-and-why-not. Neighbors were summoned, and soon there was a crowd that seemed like New Year's Eve in Times Square gathered on the driveway. My pop Frank J. motored the station wagon home to see the multitude witness my mother hurling mothballs into the garage through that sinister open door. Methinks he stopped the car, rested his forehead on the steering wheel and thought to himself, "Oh my God, the poor woman has finally flipped."
My mother had a simple explanation.
"I read in Helpful Heloise that skunks don't like mothballs."
To which my old man probably replied, "You all should have been sprayed for stupidity."
Frank J. had a solution. He suggested the crowd disperse, found a rake, threaded its long stick though the tire hole, and moved the rubber resting place to the woods. The skunk must've been hard-of-hearing, as it never stirred. Eventually it woke up, stretched its little skunk arms, and wandered off, taking its potential foul-smell to other tires and mothers. We all went to bed exhausted that night, as I recall.
Then there was the ugly "let's chase the semi and its demented driver" incident.
One winter evening, when all had gathered to partake of the evening meal, the typical question "So what did you do today?" was posed. My mother responded,
"Kathy and I chased a trucker."
That piece of information got everyone's attention. The clink of fork-to-plate was heard table-wide.
Seems Dottie M. was out conducting errands, Lone Ranger commandeering the Ford station wagon along Connecticut roads with little Kathy standing behind the front seat positioned as the faithful Tonto, already skilled at such a young age to hold tight to the fake naugahyde of the front seat top as my mother whipped along country roads, or it was "meet your maker time, kid."
An impatient, probably very-high-and-late-for-delivery trucker forced Dottie M., innocent daughter and trusty steed wagon off the road in the rush to get on with it. It got my mother's Irish up, so she regained her rightful position on the asphalt, and gunned it, catching up to the poor unsuspecting truckah. The consistent flashing of the Ford's headlights convinced the lad to pull his rig over into a gas station to bear witness to Dottie M's displeasure.
Seems to me we all sat at the dinner table that evening, chins to the floor, not quite believing our ears.
"He pulled off into this gas station, and got out of his truck, " Dottie M. announced. "He was mad at me. He said, 'Lady, what is your problem?' I simple shook my finger at him and said, 'Don't force me off the road!'"
"Jesus, Mom, you could have been killed," my brother Fran offered in response.
Dottie M. replied, "No way. I just talked to him like I talk to you kids."
Yep, you could've been killed.
Happy Mother's Day, Maw...wherever you are.