A Memory for Mom

Perhaps because my parents were perennial renters, our family moved residences every few years during my wayward youth. Undoubtedly, the house on Vesta Drive across from Hilltop School is most memorable place. I fondly recall walking out the front door, across the street, sneaking through a neighbor’s yard, and onto the elementary school’s sports field to classes.

During summer evenings, several adults would fly gas-powered model airplanes, using Hilltop’s driveway to take-off and land. Watching them soar was the coolest thing for a fourth-grader. Drones are their modern-day equivalent and way more prevalent. 

Mom would send me on errands to a grocery store along Main Street, which was about a half-mile-away walk. She let me keep the change, and I would buy treats to share with my three sisters. But then one day I stopped. There remains memory of their anticipation but the coldness of my clutching closed the paper bag, keeping all the goodies for myself. Years later, I would describe the moment as my worst misdeed—violation of their trust. In some respects, the action marked, at 10 years old, abdication of my designated role: Protective older brother.

We lost Frisky in that house. The cat came to the family—and I don’t recall the circumstance—when we lived along a country road and I was six. There I twice dropped him upside down out a second-floor window, after seeing on television that cats had nine lives and always landed on their feet. He scurried off before I could get him for a third try. Some days later, I opened my bedroom window to let Frisky in from the roof. He was in my arms when the frame slammed down on his tail. What seemed like hours passed while he howled and scratched my hands and I desperately struggled to push open the window. Fifty-three years later, faint scars still remain from the incident.

Mom was always take-charge, which Frisky’s end demonstrates. One Spring day, he vanished. Two weeks later, while I was at Hilltop, he came home. To die. Mom heard him faintly mewing under the steps, from which she fetched him. Later that afternoon, she told me that our pet’s nose was blue and that Frisky was anything but. She immediately had taken him to the veterinarian, who diagnosed distemper. The five year-old cat was too dehydrated and sickly to survive. I never saw him again.

We move down vague memory-lane, where what I recall might be associated with our rental in Limestone, Maine, during second grade. But I believe Vesta Drive in neighboring Caribou, my hometown, is right. Mom wasn’t tall, measuring about 1.5 meters (four feet, ten-and-a-half inches), which I will use as polite excuse for her driving dilemma. Because she was so go-to-take-action, what else can explain flunking her driving test three times before passing and receiving a driver’s license? Short stature at the wheel surely affected something.

Greater mobility opened up possibilities for her: working the evening desk shift at the hotel/motel sitting atop of Prestile Hill. On a snowy stormy night, when my sisters were away on a sleepover, Dad woke from deep sleep. Somehow mom had a fender-bender with the only other vehicle in the parking lot! Just cue the sitcom laugh track.

My fondest memory of mom as a kid, and I believe on Vesta Drive, was the impromptu treat feasts. When she made home-made cookies, kids from all around rushed to our house. Maybe my memory exaggerates, but I recall crowds. She pulled from the oven tray after tray of cookies to share. The recipe was locally legendary. Hehe, as long as mom baked, I had neighborhood friends.

Mom easily made friends, and there was something hypnotic about the way that they came so seemingly effortlessly  She could never be lonely, because people wanted to hang around her. In a way, the cookies are metaphor for something sweet about her character that attracted others. She was naturally effervescent and always generous.

Linda is gone now. We lost her on Aug. 5, 2017. I write, remembering, on the first birthday without her. She would have been seventy-seven today. Happy Birthday, mom. We miss you.