Full Circle: Wonky is as wonky does
We love our children, right? We love everything about them. Right again?
Moreover, their intentions are, without fail, always right-minded … even though at times they may seem a tad on the wonky side. Do we still agree?
As I sit here at my desk, I am reminded of one particular wonky intention that had so much heart, it would have put the most syrupy of Hallmark cards to weeping.
It all began on a steamy, drippy July day in Tokyo, circa 1963. It was near noon and I was in bed. Now, let it be known that this was a first for me as no matter how I felt, I was always, always up and at ‘em. This day, however, I was just too sick. Up and at ‘em wasn’t enough clout to match the mean spirited flu that had me in its grips.
Just then four-year-old Jeff, walked by my bedroom, stopped and did a double take. Was that Mom? Mom in bed? No, it couldn’t be. Mind you, this was a boy who had never seen his mother in a horizontal position during daylight hours. He was immediately terrified.
Ever so silently Jeff entered the room, tip-toeing nearer and nearer to my bed. Although I was in a deep feverish funk, I knew he was there because I could hear him breathing; breathing really hard. I opened my eyes. There was my first born. On a good day Jeff was as white as Casper the Friendly Ghost; on this day he was nearly transparent. His blue eyes looked straight into my face. “M-m-mom,” he stammered, “did you die?”
“No, I don’t think so,” I wheezed even though I truly feared I might have. “No, Mommy didn’t die,” I assured him. “I’m just resting for a while because I don’t feel very well.” An unconvinced Jeff stayed riveted to the floor, clearly not believing for one minute what I’d just said. I told him not to worry even though I could see what a wimpy, unpersuasive show I was trying to put on. Then unable to hold out a second longer, I collapsed back into sleep.
Jeff remained riveted by my side, worry lines creasing his angelic face as his mind plunged into deep thought. That’s when it came to him. In an instant he knew. Yes, he knew! His idea would make Mom rise up from her bed, walk again and be whole!
Jeff, let me explain, was not just your ordinary run-of-the-mill four-year-old. As his mother, I could tell you all day long — and then some — how truly exceptional my boy was. He was a big, sweet, bright lad who had, as one of his self-induced responsibilities, taken upon himself much of the raising of his younger two-year-old brother. This Jeff did with heaps of misinformation. Why, wasn’t it only last week I had overheard Jeff reading a book to Matt, pointing out the highlights in all of the pictures? On and on he instructed his little brother who sat breathlessly awaiting each bit of questionable information, both boys squashed in a chair with the book resting atop their short laps.
The long session finally wrapped up as Jeff reached the pinnacle of his lecture by stabbing his chubby finger at a particularly appealing photo. “This,” he exclaimed to Matt in his most professorial voice …. “this, Matt, is Mt. Cletus, the tallest mountain in the world!”
The look on Matt’s face said it all. His brother was the most.
Now, to be perfectly honest, I would tell you that ever since that declaration, my family has searched the world over for Mt. Cletus. Fifty-five years later, we have yet to find it. Please, if any of you know where it is, kindly write me. And if you could pinpoint it on a map, we would be ever so grateful. Wouldn’t it be something if after this long search we found Mt. Cletus (the world’s tallest mountain) in a cornfield somewhere in Iowa?
White haired, blue-eyed Jeff was also bilingual, speaking both English and Japanese like a native son. On any given day this caused all manner of startled Japanese heads to swivel in alarm in his direction. How could those perfect Japanese words be coming out of THAT face, they questioned?
Jeff had other interests, as well. His questioning mind also generated a particular interest in food. Although he didn’t know the exact process in which food ended up looking like it did on his plate, he reasoned that the only thing any self-respecting four-year-old could do was to simply take the process backwards.
And that was precisely Jeff‘s thinking when he found me laid out flat. After taking in the seriousness of my condition, he knew immediate action was required. So, as I, the grievously afflicted, fell back into a deep and febrile sleep, Jeff was on the case! Already heading downstairs to the kitchen, he knew exactly what would restore his mother to good health!
Fighting off waves of nausea and giving no mind whatsoever to what Jeff was doing downstairs — let alone what anyone in the free world was doing — an hour passed. Then once again I was awakened by some up-close heavy breathing. In my misery I struggled to open my eyes. There stood my son, a radiant smile across his face, holding a large, foam-filled glass in his hands.
With my rheumy eyes unable to quite make out what it was, I whispered, “Why, Jeff, is that for me? And, where did you get it?”
“I made it myself,” he replied, his chest shifting up-and-out a notch or two.
“What is it?” I asked, barely believing my eyes.
“It’s a vanilla milkshake, Mommy!”
Let it be known that in all the world, nothing cheers me up more than ice cream. But, here we were in the midst of an oriental country that barely knew the concept of milk, let alone ice cream, let alone a vanilla milkshake! Besides almost no one had a refrigerator, let alone a freezer, to contain such a potion.
As for me, genetics would have to be blamed. I was born with lots of ice cream DNA, ice cream being my middle name. And to the folks back in Austin I was affectionately known as Margaret Gene the Zesto Queen after my three summers of serving the enticingly delicious soft frozen treat to our happy citizens. Of course a girl like me — no matter where she was in the world — would have a big old American Whirlpool stocked with ice cream … in multiple flavors. Why, I saw it as a mother’s duty to pass this very special addiction on to my children.
“But, where did you get it?” I repeated through a cloud of queasiness, completely flummoxed by his gift. “It was easy, Mommy, I made it myself! I took a chair from the table, pulled it over to the cupboard, climbed up on the chair and then onto the counter. Then I opened the cupboard door and took out the biggest glass I could find. Next I climbed down and opened the drawer. I took out a big spoon. Then I moved the chair over the refrigerator and climbed up to the freezer door. I reached in and grabbed the ice cream, then climbed down. I carried the ice cream, glass and spoon to the table. That’s where I made it!”
The sparks of satisfaction flicked off Jeff in such abundance it nearly triggered a seizure in me.
“Why, this is wonderful, Jeff, but what did you do then?”
“Well, I opened the ice cream, picked up the spoon, took out a big scoop of ice cream and put it in my mouth. I squished it back and forth. When it was all foamy, I spit it in the glass. Then I took another bite of ice cream, squished that around and spit it in the glass. It took a long, long time to fill up this whole big glass.”
The three Wise Men with their offerings of gold, incense and myrrh could not have been more pleased with their gifts than was Jeff. Glinty shimmers of luminosity flashed from his resplendent countenance.
And what did I do, you ask? A mother’s true love being what it is, I naturally drank it straight down. Instantly from somewhere near the ceiling, angelic voices began a melodious harmonizing as a sudden laying of hands was placed right over my heart. The area began to heat up like those warming packets you put in your mittens when you go out to shovel snow on a twenty-below-zero day.
It was a pure and simple miracle. My child’s love healed me. And quite honestly, Jeff, the four-year-old shaman, should have patented his healing elixir. He could have called it “Rx Squish and Spit.”
Peggy Keener of Austin is the author of two books: “Potato In A Rice Bowl” and “Wondahful Mammaries.” She invites readers to share memories by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Memories shared may be shared or referenced in subsequent editions of “Full Circle.”