Dedicated to my Mother on her ninety-ninth birthday. She left us seven years ago.
In honor of all Mamas everywhere!
“Thirteen; forty-five; seventy-one; ninety-nine,” she bellowed as she jostled through the kitchen door, flinging backpack, tied-together running shoes and disheveled jacket onto the floor beside the kitchen counter. Kate’s eyes gleamed, her face reflecting innocent pleasure at her self-assessed brilliant diversionary tactic. Her mother turned from her culinary task, faint exasperation turning quickly to her good-natured expression of amusement at her daughter’s endless tricks.
Nine-year-old Kate had a brain that worked overtime concocting games, puzzles, riddles, and whatever else would cause levity. This particular trick was far from new. Kate delighted in shouting out random numbers, trying to confuse her mother as she counted out teaspoons, tablespoons, cups, drops or pinches of salt, sugar, baking soda, flour–basically anything used in baking. Kate dissolved into laughter! She never tired of this game.
“Ahh, my dear,” chuckled her mother. “You almost had me there. If I’d lost count, this rhubarb pie could have been really sour.”
That hurled Kate into another gale of belly laughs. “Mama, I think you DID lose track.” Somehow she found this original trick utterly hilarious! At last she caught herself: “I think you really put 18 cups of sugar into the pie. Or was it only a half?” she teased.
Her mother laughed, love filling her soft blue eyes. “Oh Katie, sweetheart. You will never give up, will you? I think you caught me with that game once and then the bread was too salty. After that? Hey, I’ve learned to be careful with you around.” With that she jabbed the little girl’s side, making her squeal with delight.
“Go on now. Pick up all your school things and put them away. Then come back. I’ve got a surprise for you.”
Kate was as curious as she was fun-loving. “Surprise? What is it, Mama?” she asked, squinting past her mother, trying to see what it might be.
“No! Not now,” her mother chided. “Only after you’ve picked up after yourself, Sweets!”
Kate turned; she grudgingly collected her scattered belongings and dragged them after herself into her bedroom, where they again were quickly discarded on the floor next to her clunky, wooden desk.
“And, go wash up, too,” her mother instructed from the kitchen. “Do a good job. And use soap!”
Kate was already in the hallway, half-way back to the kitchen! So, she turned around, momentarily sullen. She let out a long sigh. Now I have to wash up! What a waste of time, she grumbled silently.
But nothing deterred the feisty nine-year-old for long. Surely not when a surprise awaited. Tap open; soap squirted onto grimy hands; short swish; shake-shake; hand-towel. Kate didn’t notice the unmistakable gray smudge she left behind on the towel before she danced back down the hallway. She never noticed dirt!
In a flash, Kate scurried to the kitchen counter, turned her back to it, then hoisted herself up onto it with muscular arms. She virtually never sat still–always running, climbing trees on the farmyard, digging up something from under black earth. Only, she didn’t much like digging up potatoes or other things from the garden. Worms or long discarded shards were so much more interesting.
“So what’s the surprise, Mama? Please, tell me,” she begged, pounding her fists on her sturdy thighs.
Her mother’s eyes sparkled. She reached behind the food processor and pulled out a very large glass of ice cold milk, and then a small plate with 5 molasses cookies on it.
Kate’s eyes grew wide as if she were seeing a prehistoric animal. “FIVE?” she exclaimed with incredulity.
“Yes, 5,” Mama replied, reveling in the little one’s joy.
Many years later, Kate’s Mama would share her continual fascination with the little girl’s unmatched sense of wonder–the most simple things would elicit a response as animated as if she had been presented with a priceless gem! And then, a grown Kate would reply, “But, Mama. Who but you could put up with me and see the good in my antics?”
Continued in Behind Each Face*
*Because this story appears in the recently published book, it is subject to restrictions as to where it can be posted in its entirety.