When both my parents had died, I felt a keen sense of loss. Even though I was an adult with a family of my own, there was such a feeling of loneliness. The two people who had nurtured me and taught me my values were gone. It was almost as if I had lost my identity. I had no brothers or sisters. I was alone. Though, not technically, I felt like an orphan.
Mine was the best childhood any child could have. I had it all! Parents who adored me, grandparents who doted on me, and extended family members who thought I was very special – and showed it. On my birthday, I received more presents than any kid should be allowed. And it was repeated at Christmas. I suppose you could say I was spoiled. But you’d be wrong. Well – maybe just a little.
You see, my mother was very strict. It was her belief that no teaching is effective except as it springs out of experience. That was fine for me because I had a strong will and it took a lot to teach me a lesson. Still does. And since I was an only child, she taught me to share by making me do just that. I had to share everything with her. If there was only one candy bar and I asked for it, she’d hold out her hand and say, “Give me half.” One bottle of soda – half was hers. And on and on... So when I played with other children, sharing came easy because I was used to it.
But one hot summer day, my mother carried the lesson a little too far, I thought. The temperature was close to a hundred degrees. In those days, we didn’t keep a lot of soft drinks in the fridge like people do today. For one thing, refrigeration wasn’t great, and refrigerators weren’t as large. That made it wiser to keep only the necessities on hand. When you wanted a particular treat like ice cream or “pop” as we called what is known as “soda” today, you made a special trip to the store for it. Such was the case on this very hot, humid day.
My mother gave me some money and asked me to walk to the neighborhood grocery store, which was only a block away~ and get each of us a bottle of Royal Crown Cola (RC). That was our favorite. I don’t know if they even make it anymore. Our plan was to sit on the porch sipping our “pop” and enjoying a leisurely summer afternoon until my father got home from work.
Of course I was happy to go. A big bottle of RC, just for me, on this hot day would be great! So off to the store I went, skipping and humming and eager to get my “pop” and hurry home to enjoy it. But on the way home, gripping a tall bottle of RC in each hand, I became a little too rambunctious. The air of a festive afternoon carried me away and I slowly drifted into a rhythm of walking and tapping the bottles together – first in front of me and then behind, all the while humming a happy tune in tempo with my steps and bottle clacking. The cadence became quite natural and made me happy until... smash! One of the bottles broke. Looking down, I was startled to see that, not only was I now holding only the top of one of the bottles, but a large chunk of the glass was sticking up in the back of my leg and I almost passed out when I saw that I was bleeding freely.
Limping up the steps to my front porch, half crying, I saw the look on my mother’s face. Fear. Anger. (I remember having those same feelings many years later when my own kids were hurt. It’s a “mother thing.”)
“What did you do?” She asked. Too upset to talk, I demonstrated. She went to work cleaning the blood from the wound, which, thankfully, wasn’t as bad as I thought. As soon as she cleaned it with a cold rag and bandaged it, the bleeding stopped and I felt better. Now, I thought, she’ll give me some of that RC.
You won’t believe me when I tell you; my mother sat down and drank the whole thing without sharing it with me! She said I should have known better than to walk along aimlessly hitting two glass bottles together. “It was a stupid thing to do!” She said. "Maybe you’ll learn a lesson.”
To this day, when I see the two inch scar behind my right knee, I remember that long ago summer day; the tall, cold bottle of RC that I wanted so badly...
...and the tears that ran down my mother’s face that night when she sat beside my bed... as I pretended to be asleep.