Today it the day my mother and father passed away, oh, so long ago.
Yet, regardless of how much time has past, I can still see her sitting at our round wooden one-leg kitchen table with her fingers latched on to the handle of her coffee cup, her legs perched on a nearby chair and laughing. Always laughing.
Our round table was big enough for every day meals but not big enough for Christmas dinner unless we used the extra leaf to turn it from a table for five into a table for ten when the relatives would come over to eat turkey legs, cranberry from a can, homemade stuffing and mashed potatoes peeled with my own hands.
A few years ago, I found a table just like it, only smaller. (I don’t have an extra leaf either.) I scooped it up within seconds of seeing it at the antique store. I don’t remember how much I paid for it. It didn’t matter. I had to have it. It’s the place, if I shut my eyes, I can always picture my mother sitting with her ever-present coffee cup.
Now, I sit at my own round wooden one-leg kitchen table with an ice tea sweating on its leaf coaster, my fingers typing feverishly on the keyboard.
The last Christmas before she died I had wanted a chemistry set soooo bad. My parents made it a policy to give us the one gift we really wanted. It was easy to do. We knew we couldn’t spend much and our Christmas list was always shown to Mom for approval.
Well, that Christmas as my mother hemmed and hawed about the dangers of my longed-for chemistry set, I refused to take it off my list. I desperately wanted it. And needed it. I was going to be a scientist. And scientists need chemistry sets.
Every day that past summer I had spent hours digging, scanning and searching for stuff down by the creek. I built more terrariums than I can count. I figured if I had a chemistry set, I could turn the dirty algae-filled creek water into drinkable water.
So I begged for it. Creating drinking water was important work. (Was I psychic, or what?)
I could barely wait for Christmas morning. I couldn’t wait to show my dad what I could do.
But we had a rule: No opening presents until everybody was up.
Waking up at 4am (even 3) was not unusual for my sisters and me on Christmas but every year our parents would shoo us away announcing it wasn’t morning yet.
I have to hand it to my parents. They were smart. Gifts from “Santa” were never wrapped with paper and bows so us three girls would immediately get to work playing with the exposed toys and games until it was light enough to rouse my parents awake.
That morning, my chemistry set was no where to be seen so, I figured, it had to be a present from my parents. Oh, if they’d only get up, then I could start mixing up potions and magic formulas.
Looking out the window, I waited for the pitch black sky to turn just a shade lighter which would mean it was practically morning. When it finally did, I ran into my parents room announcing it was light out. They didn’t resist. They dragged themselves out of bed, Mom put on a pot of coffee and we got to the business of opening presents.
As soon as I was given the okay, I ripped open the presents that looked about the size of my beloved chemistry set. A pile of hand knit socks from grandma. New pajamas from the other grandma. A box of legos from Uncle Dave and Aunt Helen. There was one more present left. It had to be it. I took a deep breath.
After carefully pulling off the bow, as I was taught to do (they would be reused next year), I proceeded to tear off the “Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer” wrapping paper. And there it was. No. Not a chemistry set. A typewritter.
I stared at it in disbelief. My mother, sensing my disappointment, came over and rubbed my shoulders and said, “You’re a girl honey. You need to learn how to type.”
I looked at my mother with horror. I felt betrayed. Stabbed in the back. How could she get me a typewritter when I begged for a chemistry set? Is she really telling me if I was boy I could have a chemistry set but girls need to type?
For all the times she told me “you can do anything Rhonda” this proved she really believed that when it came down to it, boys would be the ones exploring the rivers and girls would be at work typing away.
I was heart sick.
Ironic isn’t it?
Maybe my mother knew something I didn’t. Maybe she was scared that her middle daughter would burn down the house with a kids chemistry set. Maybe she believed that typing would get me a job, and a future. Maybe she knew I would become a writer. I don’t know.
In reality, it doesn’t matter what her motivation was then because today, my mother has been proven right. I do type for a living. Maybe not in an office. Maybe not as a 9 to 5 job. But type I do. It just goes to show me once again that everything, everything, that happens to us will be used for our benefit at some point in our life.
Because here I sit…typing… on my computer at my round wooden one-leg table with my legs perched on a nearby chair. Just like I did on that Christmas so long ago.
Everything is happening for your good.
I know this for me. I know this for you.
My parents death forced me to learn about fear.
My last Christmas present was that darn ol’ typewriter.
And both of those things have shaped me into who I am today.
I love you Mom. And I miss you.