My family didn’t have much when I was growing up. We never had a house to call our own. We rented other people’s houses for a few months at a time and then had to move on. These houses were often not much more than shacks, but they kept us out of the cold, and we kept them clean. I’m not complaining.
I was raised by a single mom and even during the times she was married, she was still solely responsible for my sister and me.
My mom worked a lot. She often had multiple jobs. Money never seemed to last long enough or stretch far enough. She constantly had to humble herself in order to feed, clothe and house us.
My mom went to work and we went to school. She often left before we caught the school bus and worked long after we had gone to bed. I knew she loved us and that it broke her heart to leave.
I read a quote recently that said, “It’s okay to have tough skin as long as it covers a soft heart.” I’m not sure who said it, but I’m pretty sure they were talking about single moms.
One way my mom revealed her soft heart to us was by giving us gifts. She wasn’t able to do that very often and I’m sure she sacrificed her own wants and needs in order to give to us. I have a very vivid memory of one such gift she gave me.
I was in 8th grade. On a side note, I went to an elementary school that was a K-8 school. I had attended that school for every grade except third, during which time we lived in a different state. Being an 8th grader was the best. We had big dreams about going to high school and about what we would do for the rest of our lives. And… we still had recess. It was an elementary school. Every class got recess, no matter how old and sophisticated you thought you were.
We still swung on the swings. We sometimes played on the monkey bars. We loved to spin the merry-go-round like it was The Price Is Right wheel. But most of all we loved to play tag. It was the game that involved chasing members of the opposite sex. And, if you were fast enough, you got to touch their back for one glorious moment.
During this particular recess on this particular day that is embedded in my memory, I and the kids in my class were excited for the fall festival and talent show that would happen later that evening.
Did you have those at your school? Each teacher would host a different event in his or her classroom. There was usually a fishing pond room, a ring toss room, a balloon popping room and a haunted house room. The haunted house room was dark. You would walk in and be guided to a table that had several bowls on it. A bowl of eyeballs. (They were really peeled grapes.) A bowl of worms. (Spaghetti noodles.) But my favorite event took place in the center of the gym. Do you know what it was? If you guessed the cake walk, then you are 100% correct!
I had put on my very best outfit before school that morning. I had plans to go home with a friend and ride with her to the festival. My friend and I, along with two of our other friends were going to be in the talent show that night. We had practiced and practiced. There were four of us. Three girls and one boy. We girls were the dancers and the back-up singers and our friend, Dewayne was the front man. We weren’t really singing, we were lip-syncing. Lip- syncing was very popular in the 80’s. Remember, Puttin’ on the Hits? Lip-syncing later became unpopular for Milli Vanilli, but that’s another story.
Donna, Lisa and I had practiced our moves and our lip-syncing. Dewayne was kind enough and brave enough to stand in for Rick Springfield, (the previous love of my life before I met my husband.) We were ready and had our sights set on that 4H blue ribbon.
Oh. Right. Let’s get back to tag. Or in other words, let’s cut to the chase. (I couldn’t resist.) We kids were excited and we decided to play a game of tag. We were all running around. I’m not sure whose turn it was to do the tagging. I’m not sure which boy I hoped to tag when it was my turn to be “it.” But I am sure that I did not do a very good job running around the mud holes that the rain had conspicuously placed on our playground that day.
Yep. I landed right in the middle of one of those things and my very best outfit was a mess! What would I wear for the talent show now?! We had everything planned so we were fashionable and coordinated. I really didn’t know what I was going to do. There was still more of the school day left, so for the time being I would have to take my humiliated, muddy self back to class.
When school was over, my friend Donna took me to my house to try and help me find something else to wear. There wasn’t time to wash and dry my clothes.
Remember when I told you my mom likes to express her love by giving gifts? When Donna and I arrived at my house, my mom wasn’t home; but she had been there. When I went to the bedroom, there was a gift at the foot of my bed. This was my mom’s favorite spot to leave gifts for us. Once she left me a pink nightgown and a hairbrush. The gifts were never frivolous, but were always something we needed. The gift she left at the foot of my bed this time was a pink jogging suit. I was so thankful to have it, especially when Donna announced that she had a purple one just like it! And it turned out, Lisa had one too.
Our stage wardrobe was changed that very instant and we competed in the talent show that night just as planned! We had a blast!
I don’t remember what color ribbon we received that night, but I will never forget that pink sweatsuit- my mom’s timely, sacrificial gift, placed loving at the foot of my bed.
(Pause here to cry… or to think about your mom… or your favorite sweatsuit.)
Over the years, when my kids were at school if I was out and about and saw a little something they wanted or needed, I would buy it, take it home and place it at the foot of their bed. There could be no place more perfect.
I’m a Mimi now and I can’t wait to carry on this tradition with my grandson and all the other grands to come!
What unique traditions are you carrying on with your kids and grandkids?
“And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation.