“If you live to be a hundred, I want to live to be a hundred minus one day so I never have to live without you.”
From The Complete Tales of Winnie-the-Pooh
by A.A. Milne.
When I was roughly 10 years old one of the neighborhood moms called to me from her driveway as I meandered up and down the cracked sidewalk in front of our house in Kent. I was uncharacteristically on my own that day rather than trailing my older brother around or stealing off into the woods with the other neighborhood kids as was a typical afternoon for me.
I reluctantly stopped and leaned on my old red bike at the foot of her drive. I did not care for her. For some unexplainable reason she had always made me feel anxious and wary. She had three kids. One was a boy a little older then myself and the other two were girls a bit younger than I. We played together on occasion coming together naturally as neighborhood kids do on those long Summer days when everyone is outside until the street lights come on (mind you this was the 80s). Though I cannot say we were friends. Just kids in the same proximity and both with the same need for someone else to make the game or make-believe venture more fun.
That day though I was alone and stood warily waiting to see what – we’ll call her Mrs. Gunn – wanted. What she said was this, “Hey you. You aren’t allowed over here anymore. I’ve had three kids come to me to tell me you are using the “Eff” word. That’s despicable.” She snarled these words at me and waved me away like a fly. I remember standing stiff with shock and being annoyed that my lower lip was trembling a bit.
What? The “Eff” word? That was the biggie. I knew what it was because I’d heard my father often uttering a colorful string of words that included this one in the driveway under the car or in his shop. But I had never SAID it out loud! God would have heard me! In fact I was a rather quiet kid (at that time…) who said very little let alone the “Eff” word!
I remember finally getting back on my bike and peddling quickly away from Mrs. Gunn her wild eyed face still vivid. I tossed my bike on our driveway and galloped inside my house. My mother was in the kitchen and I went straight to her. It was then that those hot tears seeped out of my eyes and down my cheeks. I hiccupped my way through the terrible scene with Mrs. Gunn assuring her I’d never in a million billion millennia said THAT word and my mother listened with her arm around me. Now my mother was a quiet woman. Always around. Comfortable and soft. She had green eyes and curly hair. She colored with me a lot and her pages always looked so beautiful and brilliant.
After I finished telling her what had happened she patted my arm and walked to the phone hanging on the wall in the kitchen. I watched as she dialed a number and then delivered what I still remember to this day as the most awesome verbal takedown of anyone ever. Mrs. Gunn didn’t know who she was messing with. That was it. I have no idea what Mrs. Gunn said back but I know what my mom said. And her ferocity was a sight to behold.
Mrs. Gunn never said a word to me again after that day and in fact neither did her children much. I was content. Riding my red bike, playing with the other kids, and reading my books. And life moved on. But thirty-four years later I still remember how my mom had my back.
May is the month celebrating mothers. Those beautiful and gritty beings who at once are gentle and constant but also fierce and protective. Mothers will sacrifice their very selves for their children if they need to. There is nothing like the love of a mom.