Today, February 13th is my mother’s birthday and she would have been 71 as she was born in 1945. She was gone too suddenly and too soon and I can’t help but miss her. I miss her smiling face and her look of astonishment when I would stop by for a surprise visit. I miss our little chats when we sat in the living room in the evening and her quiet laughter when we watched a light-hearted comedy movie. During the many quiet evenings, she often worked on a project while later is revealed as a Christmas gift. She also shared about her faith in God in very quiet ways.We also used to go on long strolls past the farm fields and visit the tiny pond on our property. Mom enjoyed hearing the sound of frogs at night which was something she remembered as a young girl: listening to the choir of chirps in the night air. She also talked about how she saved money and bought her own radio. With her radio near her bed, she would lay awake and listen to the Grand Ol Opry. She liked taking photographs too but often didn’t like having her own picture taken. As a mom she could be stern at times and let us kids know when she was displeased about something we had done. However, she made sure we all knew that she deeply loved us and there was no end to her love. My mom was a modest and quiet lady usually too modest to draw attention to herself; this was evident in her quiet mannerisms, often subdued tone of voice, and even her laughter contained a quiet and musical quality. To be sure, I have shared many humorous moments with her when she suddenly would erupt in giddy laughter However, one day unexpectedly, I heard her burst into loud and uncontrollable mirth.
One warm summer day while I was visiting my mom, she had decided she needed to go to the grocery store. Sometimes, if she didn’t need too many groceries, we would just visit a grocery or convenience store in nearby Hixton. However, on this day, she needed more. That meant heading to Burnstad’s in Black River Falls. I accompanied her to the store where she proceeded, with list in hand, to grocery shop. She had the aisles memorized and knew just where to find each item. Often her grocery list was organized according to items needed in each subsequent aisle. I helped to look and grab items she couldn’t reach or I might run back a few aisles to pick up a forgotten item. And, almost always a few extra things get placed into the cart.
We finished shopping, completed our purchase, and headed to our parked car. I was pushing the cart and parked it in back of our vehicle, opened the trunk, and began transferring the groceries into the open space of the trunk. I had all the grocery bags loaded and needed to only transfer the gallon of milk and the watermelon.
Suddenly my mom cried out, “The cart!!”
I turned to see our grocery cart, still containing the milk and the watermelon, rolling downhill across the parking lot. I dashed off as if I had been propelled from a canon to catch up with the runaway cart; but no matter how fast I ran that cart rolled faster. However, I continued to pick up my pace determined to catch up. The crazily careening cart shot across the parking lot, rolled into the grass, and flipped over in the ditch sending the milk and melon flying. Much to my amazement, neither item was broken. I retrieved the cart and the groceries and then headed back to the car and my waiting mother.
As I retraced my footsteps across the parking lot I mentally prepared to apologize to my mom about being so absent-minded as to park the grocery cart on the wrong side of our vehicle. If I had set it next to the car on the uphill side, it would not have rolled off speeding across the pavement and crashed into the ditch. However, I soon found that my apology was unnecessary. When I arrived at the car, I found my mother bent over laughing hysterically; she could not control her mirth. According to her giggle-tainted description, the scene of me chasing this speeding runaway grocery cart across Burnstad’s parking lot looked so ridiculous and absolutely ludicrous that I was convinced I should have been in an episode of The Three Stooges or, perhaps, Laurel and Hardy. After I stored the milk and watermelon into the trunk and safely put away the cart, we headed home which was roughly 13 miles. During the drive, my mom still couldn’t contain her laughter and it was contagious for soon I was smiling and giggling with her.
We arrived at home still unable to subdue our hysterical mirth. Nathan, my nephew, ran out from the poll shed demanding, “What’s so funny?”
Between bursts of giggles I tried to explain, “I just turned around and the cart was gone.”
This made no sense to Nathan so I took a deep breath and explained the tale of my oversight in parking the grocery cart on the wrong side of the car so that it shot across Burnstad’s sloping parking lot and flipped in the ditch. Then I picked up the milk and the watermelon from the trunk and exclaimed, “But look, neither the milk nor the watermelon were smashed. Isn’t that good?”
Nathan shook his head and smiled.
It was not every day that I had the sweet opportunity to hear my mother’s unhindered and joyful laughter. That day was an unexpected and special gift. While she lived on earth, my mother faced her share of hardships and disappointments but even during those times she made sure her children and grandchildren knew they were loved. She worked hard over the years to take care of the family she loved so much. She also basked in the sunlight on warm and beautiful days when she could sit outside in the yard to hear and watch a nearby water fountain which sent a tiny waterfall gushing over the stones and into a small pond. There was a sense of gentle calmness when listening to the trickling water. Nearby she had set up bird feeders so she could watch the colorful humming birds fly in and feed. Those were wonderfully pleasant days to sit and just visit. Often I wish and yearn to have just one more day with my mom. Each memory I have today of her is a gift that I treasure in my mind and heart.