I’ve always sucked at keeping surprises secret. I get too excited about the whole “Yay, I’ve done something awesome for someone and I WANT TO TELL THEM” thing and usually end up spilling before the recipient (willing or not) is even aware there’s supposed to be a surprise. So when I posted something on Facebook in early December about getting my mother The Bestest Christmas Present Ever, her public response was, “I’ll know by the weekend.”
Gee, Mom. Thanks for that vote of confidence.
But I kept my splendiferous secret. I didn’t tell
a soul that many people half the free world her (or Earl, because Earl is even worse at keeping secrets than I am).
Christmas morning came and she unwrapped this enormous box. On top was a sign that read, “If you’re waiting for a sign, this is it.” Below that was another box. Each box had a note taped to it that tied the present above to the present nested within or below. There was the sign, a how-to book on writing, an Erma Bombeck book, a notebook, a carry-all bag, the kitchen sink (felt like it), and an envelope. In the envelope was the real gift: an email confirming her registration to the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop in Dayton, OH, in April.
Merry Christmas, Ma! We’re going to DAYTON!
See, I’ve noticed something in my 30-something years. Without my mother ever specifically voicing her old hopes/dreams/fascinations to me, I’ve tended to follow in those same interests, save for reading (which I grew into in adulthood) and keeping a spotless house (HA!). In high school, I decided I wanted to be a physical therapist; Mom once dreamed of being a PT. I had a constant interest in production, TV, and stage; she’d always been fascinated. And since before I knew how to spell, I have always written; my mother is wicked keen with a pen.
She’s spent years doing what mother’s do – watching her dreams unfold vicariously through her child. Well, in December, I decided it’s time for that to change.
Months ago, I was cleaning off floppy disks and found several things she had written or started to write or just kind of scribbled out at the keyboard. Now, it was no big shock to me that she has a natural ability. We have a dear family friend for whom my mother has written everything from cover letters to speeches to obituaries to protest letters through the years. Mom is the go-to gal for most of her friends when something clever or witty or sharp or convincing must be written. I’ve always known that. But I had never really seen any of her creative side until that brief stroll through those floppies. Fold into that how she can flat out tell an oral story, and I was convinced.
This is my mother’s time.
That’s not to say there’s any pressure. Even if all she does is write down the zillions of family stories that live only in her brain (most of the kinfolk will admit that she was the only one who ever really, really listened to the family stories as a child, and of course the tellers are all long-dead), I’ll take that as a tremendous win. They may never even be published, but it would certainly be one of the most cherished things in my life and probably in Earl’s as well.
So in a few weeks, we’ll be driving up to Dayton, sightseeing along the way, to the land of Erma Bombeck. If you’re there, too, stop and say hello. I’ll be easy to spot. I’ll be the grown woman dragging her mother around from workshop to workshop like a kid desperate to get to the mother-lode of secret surprises on Christmas morning.