“Living In A Memory”
“Charles! Where are you? Charles!” My mother’s yell swept across the yard. I heard it, but I was busy. Super busy. I was making a masterpiece. Mom was going to love it. All it needed was a few finishing touches. “Charles Jones, I better not find you in the mud again!” I glanced up from my mud castle to see my mother bearing down on me. Uh oh. She had that look in her eyes, the one she got right before she threatened me with the wooden spoon. She’d only used it once, but one time was enough for me. I didn’t care what my friends said. The spoon hurt.
“Charles! Get up! Get up, get up, get uuuuuuuup!” she shrieked. Clearly, she was unhappy, but…why? She always let me make mud castles.
I pointed to my masterpiece and gave her my biggest grin. “Look, Mom. This one has a turret.”
“I told you not to get dirty! I told you to stay in the grass!” She glanced at her watch and her face got all scrunchy. Yep, I was definitely getting the spoon. “Come on. We have ten minutes to make you presentable.” When she turned on her heel and started back across the yard, I noticed that she was wearing her Sunday dress, the one she saved for church and nice occasions. My heart sank. My fingers drummed nervously against my leg. Tap-tappity-tap-tap. Sigh. It wasn’t working. It never worked when Mom was angry. “Now, Charles!” she called over her shoulder. I ran after her as fast as my eight-year-old legs would carry me. “Shoes off,” she commanded as we reached the back door.
I quickly toed my shoes off. “Are we going to church?” I quietly asked.
“If you’d stayed in the grass, like I asked, you would know what was happening.” She glared down at me and I dropped my eyes to my feet. With a loud sigh, she finally gave in. “I’ll explain while I’m getting you cleaned up. Hurry, baby, we don’t have much time.”
“I’m not a baby,” I grumbled as I headed up the stairs after her.
Once we reached the bathroom, Mom got down to business. After a flurry of water, washcloths, and wiping, she stepped back and smiled. “You are my baby, Charles. I love you beyond words. Promise me you’ll never forget it. Now, let’s get you dressed.” I followed her into my bedroom and sat on the foot of my bed while she rummaged around in my closet. I wanted to ask why we were getting dressed up and where we were going, but decided against it. Mom didn’t like when I asked too many questions, but still…something was happening, and I was now worried. As I waited for her to explain, I closed my eyes and drummed my fingers on the side of the bed. Tap-tappity-tappity-tap-tap. Slowly, the fear began to recede.
When I opened them back up, she was kneeling in front of me with my least favorite shirt in her hands. Sighing at my unhappy scowl, she ordered, “Hands over your head.” Once the shirt was situated, she began to explain. “You know how I’ve been gone a lot lately?” I nodded my head. “Well, it’s because I met someone. His name is Donald and…I really like him.” She leaned forward, and whispered, “He really likes me, too, Charley. He’s an important man, a police officer. I’ve told him all about you and he can’t wait to meet you.” I hated when my mother called me Charley. It made me sound like a baby. The excitement in her voice made my heart race, but her words made my stomach queasy. What if he doesn’t like me? That question sat like a lead weight on the tip of my tongue. For as long as I could remember it had been Mom and me. My fingers drummed frantically against the side of my leg as I stared down at my knees. “Leg up,” she said. I lifted my leg and she helped me into my shorts. All the while, she continued to talk. “Don’s going to love you, Charley. He’s always wanted kids. Move your hands,” she instructed. I shifted my hands to the side of the bed and waited for her to button my shorts. My fingers danced back and forth across the bed while she pulled on my socks. When she was done messing with me, she dropped back onto her heels. “Charles,” she whispered. My eyes snapped to hers. “This could be it. You know…what we’ve been waiting for.” I wasn’t sure what she was talking about. Seeing my confused expression, she grabbed both of my hands in hers. The urge to rip them from her grasp was overwhelming, but if I did, she would be disappointed.
“Mom, please?” I begged. I didn’t like being touched.
“Listen to me, Charley. I want this. Do you hear me?” I nodded my head, yes. “Donald could be your new daddy. Do you understand what I’m saying?” Her face sparkled with excitement. “He’ll take care of us, baby. We’ll have all the things we’ve always wanted. All you have to do is smile and show him how amazing you are, okay? No finger twitching or…” she waved her hand in the air, “whatever it is you’re always doing with your hands, okay? We don’t want to scare him off. Do you understand?” Again, I nodded my head yes. “I need to hear the words.”
“I understand,” I whispered.
“Great. Donald is going to love you. Just you wait and see…”