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So in thinking about my mom this Mother’s Day, I was reminded about the time my mom locked me out of the house to face the neighborhood bullies.
I was around 10 years old and we lived in a nice, middle-class neighborhood that had several families with children around the same age, but my immediate neighbor had a son who was a couple of years my senior and he had several friends his age or older who frequented his home to play baseball, football, play in the irrigation ditch, make a ramp out of a wood plank and brick to jump with their bikes, skin the cat, or catch a field rat — you know, all sorts of things the neighborhood hooligans did back in the ‘70s.
I vaguely remember that one of the boys in this group had set a fire to something that had “unintentionally” caused a structure to catch fire. Needless to say, these guys were a rough bunch.
I, on the other hand, was somewhat of an introvert, keeping to myself, but there were the occasional “run-ins” with these neighborhood ruffians and I, apparently, made a habit of running home to voice my displeasure to Mom about how I was being treated when they decided that I was going to be the object of their ridicule.
Well, the day came when Mom had had enough. I don’t remember the details of this particular day’s “bullying” — we used the term “picking on,” a little less melodramatic and pretty much understood as part and parcel of growing up.
And true to my usual response when faced with the onslaught of unwanted, protagonist deriding, I opened the screen door to our porch, headed to the back door to escape this horde of barbarians to find Mom had reached the door just prior to my arrival, and I heard the bolt lock latch.
The upper part of the door had the large glass pane, and there I beheld the stern and disgusted look of my mom — my own loving mother who had given birth to me while my father was serving in the Air Force, stationed in Guam, thousands of miles away.
The look on her face, forever seared into my memory — you know the one — and the consternation in her voice have forever made their lasting impression on my life.
She informed me, in no uncertain terms, that I was going to learn how to stand up for myself and that I was not going to make it my modus operandi that every time I faced uncomfortable circumstances, even it were Genghis Kahn and the Mongol Horde itself, I was going to stop running away from these encounters and defend myself.
I don’t know how much time elapsed, but it felt like an eternity. There I was, alone, facing the neighborhood gang, all three hundred of them on the outside of that screened-in porch with bats and knives, brass knuckles and axes, and my mom standing inside the only means of escape and safety I knew with the door locked.
Well, like I said, I’m not sure how long I stood there contemplating what could have very well been one of the most important life decisions I would ever make; the scenarios of what would be the eventual outcome and ramifications of my decision, but after what seemed like eternity, I finally did the only thing a young boy not wanting to disappoint his mother could do; I begged my Mom to open the door!
Reluctantly, she complied — I think she realized that I just didn’t have it in me to fight. I was a very passive child without a trace of aggression in me who would not survive the day. She also probably figured I would have just stood there, banging on the back door until she could bear it no longer and would have to let me in.
My mother and I have recounted this story hundreds of times, as well as others, and the laughs we share are worth far more than anything in this world to me. I think she would say the same, not just about me but my brother and her grandchildren, and now her great-granddaughter.
British novelist and author William Makepeace Thackeray, said, “Mother is the name of God in the lips and hearts of little children.”
I like that.
So, this Mother’s Day, give your mom a hug and a kiss, and tell her you love her. If she isn’t close enough for a visit, give her a call and spend some time reminiscing, and be sure to tell her you love her. If she has left this earth to await your arrival, make sure you’re making plans to see her again.
And just a word of advice to any youngster who may happen to read this piece — keep a key hidden outside just in case.
Alvin R. Bass Jr. is a Wilson native. He and his wife, Robin, have two children, one granddaughter, three dogs and a cat. Follow him on Facebook at “The Lovable Bigot.”