My mother doesn’t read my writing, which is a good thing because I doubt she’d appreciate how I characterize her, but lately we’ve run out of things to say so I’ve taken to reading short stories to her over the phone. I recently shared a childhood adventure: actually it was a chapter from my memoir The Kid in the Kaleidoscope. I thought she’d find it amusing. Boy was I wrong.
The story, Riding the Hammer (check it out under Pages on my blog) takes place when I was ten and my best friend and I snuck out one summer evening to inspect the carnival that had risen in the parking lot of a nearby shopping center.
I read the story to Mom, and she listened quietly without interrupting, which was unusual for her and should have served as a clue for what was to come. As I read, I was pleased with my words and felt I’d created a well-paced, rhythmic story that was evocative of the period and, in my opinion, if not outright funny at least amusing.
When I reached the conclusion the silence on the other end of the line was deafening. “So what did you think?” I asked.
“Let me get this straight; you snuck out of the house to go to this carnival?”
I was startled. That was what she’d focused on? That I’d snuck out? What about all those pretty words? “It was nearly fifty years ago, Mom.”
“I don’t care how long ago it was. How old were you at the time?”
“I’m disappointed in you. Where was I when this happened?”
Dad worked a graveyard shift as a mechanic for the city of Sunnyvale and Mom worked days at a plant that bottled wine. She always dosed off early. “You were asleep on your bed.”
“You betrayed my trust.” I could feel her hand coming through the telephone and smacking me on my now-gray head.
“I think you’re blowing this out of proportion. Besides, what did you think of the rest of the story?”
“Tell me, did you have a pang of conscience over what you were doing?”
“So you didn’t like the story?”
“It was hard to get past the realization that you weren’t the little boy I thought you were.”
She harangued me for twenty minutes, channeling so much rage that you'd have thought the incident happened yesterday.
“Well, I certainly wasn’t an angel," I said. Maybe I better not read you anymore of my stories.”
“I don’t want to curtail you, even though your stories are probably filled with deceptions that will wound me deeply. Continue reading them to me.”
Can your Mom hold a grudge? Is she still blaming you for something?