A Gesture of Love
by Myrna Beth Lambert
My mother, a single mom, was a career woman. She was Chief Executive Officer for a well-known cereal company and she never had time for her only child. I was raised by housekeepers and Nannies.
We lived in a trendy neighbourhood in downtown Chicago where I attended a private school. After school I usually went home with my best friend Tanya.
How I envied Tanya whose mother was always home after school passing out chocolate chip cookies as she listened to us recap the day’s events.
Mama and I usually spent Saturdays together. Her idea of mother and daughter bonding was having a cup of coffee and a large croissant at the corner bakery café near our apartment building. Our discussions usually centered on her latest project.
One Saturday afternoon at the café while Mama slowly sipped her coffee and expounded her newest campaign I interrupted and nervously stammered, “I have something to ask you. The freshman class is having an assembly next Friday to introduce our unit on Marketing and Advertising and we have to dress as a figure from an advertising commercial. I will need a costume and we have permission to ask a parent for help.”
“Well that s great,” chuckled Mama.
“We’ll buy you an appropriate outfit. There’s a darling shop nearby.”
“Wait a second, you don’t understand. The costume has to be homemade.”
“Oh how provincial,” she exclaimed.
I could feel my face turn bright red as anger built up inside of me.
“Just forget it,” I said as I picked up my jean jacket and fled the café.
Nothing more was said about the costume and the week passed swiftly. During school I listened with envy as the girls in class discussed their mothers’ creative inspirations. I had a few ideas as to the theme of my costume but I didn’t know how to begin. Mama was away on a business trip most of the week and Tanya was ill. I came home from school each day and went directly to my room to brood over my dilemma and lack of motherly love.
“When I’m a mother I will be home for dinners and help my children with their homework. I will listen to their problems and be there for them,” I muttered to myself.
The night before the assembly I decided I would skip school the following day. I just couldn’t appear without a costume.
Mama arrived home that night at 9:30, dropped her briefcase on the marble tiles and sighed.
“I m drained, what a week. Lets have a snack and you can tell me all about school.”
“Why?” I questioned. “You don’t care anyway. You re not much of a mother and I hate you!” I yelled.
Mama s face blanched. “That s a terrible thing for a 14 year old to say to her mother. I work hard to give you everything I can and this is how you show your appreciation?”
“Mama you work hard to give me everything you think I want, but you never give me the things I need, such as your time, your affection and your interest in my life.” I couldn’t believe these words were coming from my mouth. “Tomorrow is an important day for me and I don t even have a costume. Every mother I know has been helping her daughter to create something special, except you.”
Teary-eyed Mama asked, “What were you planning to be?”
“The girl on our salt carton. I thought this might be an easy costume to make but I don t even know where to begin.”
Mama studied the girl on the salt box and said, “I’ll be back in half an hour.” She returned with rolls of yellow crepe paper, scotch tape and a freshly brewed cup of coffee.
“Quickly find your old pink dress with the empire waist,” she instructed.
I ran to the closet and dragged out this old dress that was two sizes small for me. Mama began opening the seams.
“Now get my lavender umbrella from the umbrella stand,” she ordered.
I was stupefied. Mama was going to scotch tape a costume for me. After causing such a ruckus I didn’t have the heart to tell her that I didn’t think this would work.
As Mama slowly drank the hot brew from her Styrofoam cup she took measurements of my arms and waist and then ordered me to bed. She gave me an affectionate hug and said, “I promise you will have a costume by morning.”
The following morning I hurriedly dressed, wondering anxiously if my mother had fulfilled her promise.
There sat Mama in the same place I had left her the preceding night, head resting on her desk surrounded by her empty coffee cup and scraps of yellow crepe paper.
Lying on the sofa was my costume; a yellow dress of crepe paper and a lavender umbrella with a sign attached that read, “When it rains, it pours.”* This costume was the most beautiful, yet ugliest costume I had ever seen. I loved every yellow piece of it and wore it to the school assembly with pride, crinkling as I walked.
To me this costume was the world, for it represented my mother’s love. The thought of her staying up all night drowning in her coffee to finish this costume epitomized all I thought a mother should be.
I never again questioned my mother’s love and I believe our relationship strengthened because of her magnanimous effort to help. We both learned something from that episode.
Now, whenever I visit the corner bakery café I order a large cup of coffee and let the aroma of the brew stir up those warm memories of my unconventional mother and her noble effort to prove her love.
* Quote on the Morton Salt Box
Award-winning author, Myrna Beth (Micki) Lambert, is the mother of three grown daughters and nine grandchildren. She had been married to her husband, Stan, for 48 years. Micki writes poetry and short stories and has had several poems and stories published. Her writing has received many awards including the Tom Howard Short Story Contest and Voice Net Poetry Contest. She has had several Christmas stories published in Bread ‘n Molasses. Myrna divides her time between homes in Chicago and Florida.