In the summer of 1969, our family included Barbara, who would be 8 in September, Bobby, who would be 5 in August and Jody who was 16 months old. We lived in a quaint Cape Cod home in the town of Greece.
We had a neighbor who lived right behind us and they also had a 5 year old son named Eric. Bobby and Eric were best friends and this story is about them. They were active boys who were spending the afternoon playing together at our house. I wanted to go outside and work in my small garden that was situated right under the kitchen windows. I sat Eric and Bobby down with crayons and coloring books and while Jody was taking her nap, I headed outside to do my gardening.
Even though I could not see them, I was constantly reassured by their chatter that all was well. I would also be able to hear Jody when she woke up and Barbara was down the street playing with friends at the neighbor’s house. It was a beautiful day.
My small garden was made up of tomato, pepper and cucumber plants and I was woefully behind pulling out the unwanted weeds. As I weeded, my mind wandered and the time flew by. I was caught up suddenly when I realized there was no longer any happy chatter coming from the kitchen. I stood up and looked in the window and my fear was confirmed. The boys were no longer coloring, the chairs were empty. I immediately headed into the house.
When I got through the kitchen door I could hear them talking in whispers. They were down the hallway, in my bedroom, I walked quietly toward them so I could listen.
“I don’t think it looks bad,” said Eric, “your Mommy will be happy.”
“I don’t know,” said Bobby, “It still looks pretty dirty, let’s clean some more.”
I had no idea what they were cleaning that still looked dirty, but I slowly backed away and went back outside. When I got back to the kitchen window, I called out to the boys to come back to the table where I could hear them. They ran into the kitchen, faces flushed and glanced at each other in conspiratorial looks that united them in whatever activity they had been engaged in. Now they were grateful to be able to sit down and just color.
I waited a bit until they were absorbed in their work, then I snuck around the house to the front door and then crept silently through the house and into my bedroom. I laughed to myself when I saw the mess they had made. They had decided to clean my floor length mirror using a washcloth and a bar of soap. I could see that they had worked very hard at it, but the soap was hardening in a white fog that covered the mirror all the way up to the middle or what would have been as high as they could reach on their tippy toes.
So I did what I liked to do, I decided to play a trick on them. I had access to the bathroom so I used the proper cleaning products and quickly scrubbed the soap scum off the mirror until it was sparkling clean and shining again. Then I quietly went back out the front door and returned to the garden. I was able to finish my weeding while the boys were on their very best behavior. I could almost see the halos hovering over their heads. When I finished, I came into the Kitchen and told the boys how proud I was because they were being so good.
Again, they exchanged that conspiratorial look that I ignored. As I continued to clean up, washing off in the kitchen sink I asked them if they were enjoying their day. They were quick to assure me that they were having the best day ever.
Now it was show time, I left the room and loudly walked into my bedroom. They were so quiet that I pictured them holding their breath, waiting. I let them wait for a minute, then I called them by name to come into the bedroom with me. I heard the chairs move slowly, heard their little footsteps as they very slowly came closer.
They walked in together, into the bedroom, keeping their little backs to the mirror, their faces frozen in anticipation and I believe I can I say a bit of fear.
“Well boys,” I said sternly, “Whose idea was it to clean my mirror?” No one spoke up to take credit. I smiled then and said that I wanted to thank them because my mirror looked so good now. I watched their surprised faces as they quickly turned around to look at the mirror.
“See, see,” said a very relieved Eric to Bobby, “I told you it would look better when it dried” and with smiling faces, they happily ran back out into the kitchen to continue their coloring.
I truly did enjoy being a Mother, or as I thought of myself, the adult child.