In honor of the return of the old(er but wiser) Sophia Green, I have decided to devote this week’s journal entry to a happy recollection of my mother during her illness. Because, you know what? There are good memories. Even when my mother was sick we had good times. Where do you think it was that I learned that happiness is a choice?
It was summer (my mother’s last), and it was scorchingly hot. Probably July. My brother and I had just hopped off of the camp bus after another satisfying (and exhausting) day of swimming, sports, and arts & crafts. We were making our usual beeline for our perfectly air-conditioned playroom, when my mother – and her wheelchair – stopped us at the front door.
Despite the fat that her illness was so obviously progressing in the wrong direction (that hideous wooden cane looked like a raving beauty next to the wheelchair’s dull, harsh metal), my mother was in a terrific mood. She was actually giddy with excitement. In fact, she looked the way that I always feel when I’m standing at the top of the stairs on Christmas morning.
As we approached the door, my mother slowly (and dramatically) wheeled herself out of the way. But, even without that awful contraption blocking the entranceway, my brother and I still couldn’t get inside the house. Because, piled in the main hallway were mounds and mounds of sports equipment.
It was like Noah’s Ark – there were two of almost everything. There were two tennis racquets, and two sets of mini-gold clubs with plastic balls. There were two baseball bats and two leather baseball mitts. There were two softballs, a set of horseshoes (for two), two basketballs, and two soccer balls. And, as if that wasn’t enough, in the middle of it all, stood two bicycles – a sleek black one with orange trim for my brother, and a blue one with white trim for me.
Apparently, one of the local toy stores was having a “going out of business” sale, and my mother had asked my aunt to pick her up and take her over there, so that she could get “a few things” for my brother and me.
When they’d arrived at the store, my mother told us later, the place was an absolute madhouse. Lots of other mothers had had the same idea, and women were running around the store like maniacs, grabbing everything that they could get their hands on.
Not wanting to be left out, my mother and aunt joined in on the free-for-all, snatching up sports equipment with what my mother could only describe as gleeful abandon.
Her eyes sparkled (when had they last sparkled?) as she recounted how she had daringly blocked one of the aisles with her wheelchair so that she could fend off any potential “competitors,” while my aunt grabbed hold of the bikes.
Hearing the joy in my mother’s voice as she told her story, I suddenly saw the wheelchair in a very different light. For a brief moment, I looked appreciatively at that hateful metal contraption and I smiled as I tried to envision my sweet little mother forcefully barricading the aisle so that she could keep other crazed shoppers from thundering toward the bike rack.
It was one of those magical, exciting, surprise-filled days. The ones that never get forgotten or lost in the darkness at the bottom of your soul. But, rather, the kind of memory that stays with you always, to be recalled at will. The ones that make you feel happy to be alive.